It’s past the mid-way mark in October, and my mind has turned to Christmas. Meg and I are planning and buying components for gift making, and are well on the way to knowing who is getting what – although we still have to get everything ready in time. I’ve given myself until the first week in December to get the presents ready for those interstate, which is the bulk of the family.
This year, because I am able to, I am spending time on presents, rather than money. At least, I am for those who appreciate it. Not everyone sees the thought and effort that goes into making something from scratch. For these people, a gift of food seems to work where perhaps a handmade bracelet doesn’t.
So, the next thing on the list is the Christmas cooking. I’ve checked with my local nut shop owner, Ross, to find out when he will be getting the dried fruit in for the Christmas puddings, and have been assured that it will be in, in the week after the Melbourne Cup is run.
Making Christmas puddings has become a big deal for me. Last year I made 13 – this year it will probably be 15. They are not all huge by any means. Some of them are only big enough to serve two; others are big enough to serve 12. I’ve got an arrangement with everyone who gets one, that if they return their empty bowl to me, I will refill it the next year. The image above shows the new set of pudding bowls I recently bought at Queen Victoria Market. I love them so much that I won’t let them stray too far from home.
My Christmas Pudding recipe is a cracker – given to me by my mother-in-law about ten years ago, it originated in the Australian Womens’ Weekly, sometime in the ’70s, I believe. I make a gluten-free version for my coeliac friends, by substituting a wheat-free mix for the regular flour, and an alcohol-free version for my Buddhist friends from Tai Chi, so pretty much everyone is covered. In the latter case, I substitute orange juice for the brandy, and only let it soak for an hour or two before proceeding with the mixing. That’s the other thing I should mention: where the recipe calls for rum, I’ve always used brandy because I prefer the flavour it produces.
For those who don’t like dried fruit (though I find it hard to imagine myself), I make various other confections, with Meg’s help: shortbread, gingerbread, chocolate balls (rum balls without the rum) – even jars of laksa paste and chutney. Throughout November and December, the house is full of the smells of Christmas. I can’t wait.