Blog Posts

Getting into the spirit of the moment

No, I’ve not been at the sherry bottle… yet.

It’s empty and in need of filling up before the Christmas season really gets under way. However, I have been at the brandy decanter. At least I think it’s brandy. If it’s not brandy then it’s whisky (note spelling – Scottish spirit in this house!) Not that it really matters, as long as I keep using the same decanter between now and Christmas Day.

No, I’m not going on a 55 day drinking spree either. So what the heck am I up to?

I’m celebrating Samhain in my own style.

I have beautifully scented candles with crackling wicks burning. One for all those souls I know who are close to crossing over and the other for all those souls already there.

My little altar is decorated with autumn leaves from my garden in remembrance of nature’s abundance this year. It’s nothing huge. In fact it is a small rectangular tea-tray sitting on my office window sill. It’s just big enough to hold a small wooden picture of the Madonna and Child, a small Buddha from my travels in Sri Lanka, various shells and pebbles from Cornwall and a little wooden incense holder. M D loving refers to it as my “hippy bollocks corner”! Charming!

So far so alcohol-free.

In addition to decorating my altar, I decided to further honour nature’s abundance by baking bread and preparing dried fruit for this year’s Christmas cake – hence the need for spirits.

Over the years I’ve used rum, brandy and whisky in my Christmas cakes. Not all at the same time. That sounds vile, not to mention the possibility of failing a drink-drive test on just one slice! No, just one spirit per cake.

My very old recipe calls for some prep work before the actual baking day, soaking the fruit for just 24 hours and in the tiniest, in my opinion, smidge of brandy (or alcohol of choice). Given that 800g of dried fruit go into this cake, I’m not sure how 100ml of brandy is supposed to plump up those raisins, currants, and sultanas. That’s a lot of fruit in need of a serious drink. Years of experience with this recipe has lead me to use a little more than that. In fact I have no idea how much I put it in as I do this bit by pure intuition. All that’s required is to upend the decanter over the fruits and keep pouring until I feel ready to stop, give them a good stir and leave in a covered bowl for at least 48 hrs.

The fruit gets more time to plump up and more time to fill the kitchen with a delicious fruity smell. Everyone in the house is tasked with stirring the contents at least once during this delicate stage. It’s a winning combination which always gives a lovely moist cake with good distribution of fruit. My long-departed Granny would have been proud of me. Mind you, I get the feeling she might have tested the brandy/whisky/rum before she started, just to make sure it was good enough for her cake.

Maybe I should test it before baking day, you know, just in case…

Happy Friday Eve everyone xx

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