Christmas Ham

My parents-in-law always say they don’t want anything for Christmas, so I tend to make them edible treats and this year is no different.

Along with a batch of sausage rolls – without any spice – I whipped up a Christmas ham for them.

I always get my gammon from the butcher, that way I know it has a good rind on it. Do not remove any ‘netting’ around the meat, as this will hold the shape for you. Start by allowing it to soak in moving water for at least 2-3 hours, then pop the meat in a saucepan to slowly boil. You can use water, but I like to use apple juice or cider to give the meat a nice flavour. Cover the ham completely with your chosen liquid and add a few cloves and a cinnamon stick, put the lid on the pot and leave it on the lowest heat for 2-3 hours. Keep checking to make sure you still have enough liquid in there.

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Test the meat with a serving fork and when it’s cooked, transfer the meat to a board and carefully cut off the rind, leaving a good amount of fat. Remember it will be hot, so take extra care.

Now, score the fat to make diamond shapes across the top of the joint and pop in a roasting dish – I line mine with foil for less washing up!

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Pour over some runny honey and stud the diamonds with cloves for a pretty finish. You can do a mix of honey and mustard, a fruit jelly, such as quince or even apricot jam for the glaze – play and have fun.

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Now pop in the oven at 180C for around 20-30 minutes to allow the glaze to get a nice colour on it. I take it out every 10 minutes, just to baste again with any glaze that has melted off and to make sure it doesn’t burn.

You can serve his hot or cold.

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Pickled Red Cabbage

Firstly, apologies, as I should have had this post up several days ago, but things have been crazy.

My Christmas preparations continue, with my pickled red cabbage now happily maturing in the cupboard.

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I board a lovely red cabbage from a farm shop and shredded it thinly, discarding any really tough bits near the stalk and popped it in a colander and generously covered with salt. I allowed that to sit overnight, before rinsing off the salt the next day and patting the shredded cabbage dry.

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A heated some standard malt vinegar with pickling spices and some soft brown sugar, stirring until the sugar melted and tiny bubbles started to appear in the vinegar, but didn’t allow it to boil.

Once the vinegar was cool, I packed the cabbage tightly into jars and topped up with the vinegar. For added protection, I topped each jar with clingfilm before tightly closing them.

They should have a good five weeks to mature ready for Christmas – now I just need to do the onions! It’ll be perfect for cold meats and cheeses.

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Chicken Stock

My Christmas preparations are continuing, as the days seem to fly by. Today, it was time to get the stock ready for a wonderful gravy.

We had a roast chicken on Sunday, so after all the meat was used up in a leftovers’ meal last night, I was able to use the carcass to make my stock. I put all of the bones, along with any unwanted skin, into a big saucepan, along with two red onions, just peeled and quartered – I used two as they were very small – and a carrot, peeled and chopped into quarters.

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To this, I added a bay leaf and then covered everything with water and brought it to the boil. Then I turned the heat down to a low simmer, put the lid on the pot and allowed it all to cook slowly for around 4-5hours.

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Then I strained out all the bits, to leave just the liquid and returned the stock to the pan for another half an hour to really help to concentrate it a touch.

Then, pour into a jug and allow to cool, removing any excess fat that floats to the top, before transferring to a freezer bag and freezing. I’ll get it out on Christmas Eve, ready to add a real level of depth to my turkey gravy for the Big Day.

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Christmas Cake

It’s that time of year to start your Christmas cooking. This week, I have baked my Christmas cake. I used Nigella Lawson’s recipe from her Christmas book.

First up, was to soak the fruit in brandy – all 400ml of it! After bringing it to the boil, it was left to steep overnight and it smelt absolutely heavenly.

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The next day, I prepared the rest of the mixture and was just about to start adding in the fruit and dry ingredients to the sugar, butter and eggs, when I found out I didn’t have enough nuts. Mad dash to the shop to get the missing ingredient and it was on with the mixing. Mixing together the finished batter is pretty tough going, but stick with it and think of the good it’s doing for your bingo wings!

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Lining the tin is always fun, but after some adjustments, it was ready and full of cake mix, which was then popped in the oven on 150C.

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Nigella said it would take between 2.75-3.25hours, but I checked mine after 2.5hrs and it was done.

 

 

After getting it out of the oven, I brushed the top with more brandy and wrapped in tin foil twice. It cracked!! But this was because I didn’t allow it to cool enough, so make sure you really allow yours to cool before taking it out of the tin. However, checking the cake again today and it has survived, hurrah!

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For the next five weeks now,  I shall feed the cake brandy every day, through until Christmas Eve, when I shall ice it, ready for the big day.

Upcycling For Christmas

I started my Christmas crafting today. I’m hoping to do a fair few homemade presents this year and this year’s gifts started with some upcycling.

For years, I have had a gel candle sat in my bedroom – do you remember when they were all the rage? Well, a few weeks ago, I went to burn it, only to find the wick was non-existent, so I scooped out the gel and gave the glass vase a good wash. It looked far too good to just put in the recycling.

So, today, I got out my brand new mini-glue gun and some sparkly beads and took to decorating it.

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I started with just one swirl around the vase, but I was hooked! I did two more swirls and a rim around the bottom. I’m pretty pleased with the result and I’m hoping my Mum will like it too.

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Crafty Time

Tonight, I’m taking some of my crafts along to my partner’s dance club. It’s the first time I’ve done taken my crafts out in public for sale for several years. I used to do it fairly regularly when I was younger, but then work and life just got in the way.

With Christmas coming, I’ve been working on some more Christmassy bracelets with the Loom Bands that I’ve recently started using.

I will also have my semi-precious gem bracelets with me, along with some that are more aimed at children, made with colourful dice beads.

It’s also time to drag out my handmade cards too.

I’m a little nervous about starting this up again, but at the same time, I’m quite excited! So, fingers crossed, that things get off to a good start for me!

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