The modern Christmas provides a curious tension between innovation and tradition, novelty and nostalgia, grandchildren and grandparents. We undoubtedly wish to preserve certain aspects of the period. It was only about a couple of years ago that I stopped insisting my stocking was put on the end of my bed as I feigned slumber. And I bet every family has their own way of going about opening their stockings. As for food – there are far more interesting things to eat than turkey, and yet anything else, in our home at least, just wouldn’t feel right, if only because of the near-deranged and much-anticipated plundering of the leftovers for sandwiches (complete with moist-maker).
But change is essential. Each year the Christmas miserablists seem to take a deep breath in late November and then spend the next month expectorating their hatred for what should be (and is for many) a wonderful time of year. Most complaints are the same old chestnuts – too much family time, bad music, too expensive, too commerical, too much to drink (huh?), too much to eat (quoi?). These cliched quibbles are an indication that change is necessary if e’er I saw one. However the changes need to be slight and subtle. Start trying to reinvent the wheel and you’re going to irk a lot more people than the relatively small few that delight in making this time of year gloomy for everybody else.
For my part, swapping mulled wine for mulled cider is a good start. Cheaper (apparently we’re in the middle of a ‘financial crisis’ so this can only be a good thing), different, fun, and yet unmistakably festive.
Makes 3 litres
4 bottles of decent cider (fizzy is fine, the fizz cooks off)
500ml orange juice
2 cinnamon sticks
A small handful of cardamom pods
A few cloves
Some peelings of ginger
Bourbon or rum (optional)
I happened to have some barberries leftover from the Persian cooking experiment, so I slung them in too. You can pretty much stick anything you fancy in there.
Put all the ingredients into a saucepan over a low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to just under a boil and leave for at least twenty minutes before serving. Don’t let the cider boil or you’ll lose some of the alcohol. A drop of bourbon or rum at the end is a nice touch.
Got any good adaptions of Christmas staples to send my way? Post a comment, or get involved in the Christmas Challenge.