As with most people this year I am trying to spend a little less than usual and homemade gifts can work out cheaper than bought presents. I say “can” because I became less convinced about the savings as I bought presentation jars, labels and ribbons and mourned all those free glass jars and bottles that I put in the recycling over the last year – from now on I will be saving everything!
Spoiler Alert!! If you are expecting a gift from me you should probably stop reading now as this may spoil the surprise when you open your gift this Christmas.
I love mulled wine or mulled cider at Christmas but sometimes it seems like a bit of a faff to make just a glass or two so this year I have bottled some mulling syrup. I can now make small amounts of mulled wine in just a minute or two:
Mulling Syrup Recipe
Put 250g Sugar in a pan with 1 litre of water. Add 2 quartered oranges, 6 cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks, 6 whole allspice, 1/4 of a grated nutmeg and a few small slices of ginger. Heat gently until the sugar is all dissolved then bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine sieve lined with a square of muslin. Pour into sterilised bottles whilst still hot and seal.
The syrup will keep in a cool, dark place for up to three months.
To use, heat 1/3 syrup with 2/3 red wine or cider and enjoy. You may like to add another cinnamon stick and a slice of orange when you re-heat. This makes a lovely gift when given with a bottle of wine or a local cider.
Something specifically Christmassy also makes a lovely gift. I particularly like Delia’s Spiced Cranberry and Claret Jelly. In our house it’s not a replacement for cranberry sauce on Christmas Day but it does taste great with left over turkey on Boxing Day.
If your family and friends prefer sweet gifts try making fudge or biscuits. I’m not a great fan of fudge but it is improved immeasurably with addition of some good rum and juicy raisins. Whatever you decide, make it and give it with love and it will be received with pleasure. But most importantly of all – don’t forget to keep some for yourself!
Rum and Raisin Fudge Recipe
Soak 4 oz of raisins in 3 tablespoons of dark rum for an hour or so before you need them. Butter and line an 8″ square cake tin.
Put 1lb Demarera Sugar, 4 oz Butter, 5 fl oz Milk and 14 fl oz sweetened Condensed Milk into a large non-stick pan. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Raise the heat and bring to a gentle boil. Continue to boil, stirring all the time until the mixture reaches 115 C or 240 F or the soft ball stage.
Remove from the heat and stir vigorously for 10 minutes until the mixture becomes thick and grainy. This burns off nearly enough calories for you to steal a piece of the finished fudge! Stir in the rum and raisins until evenly distributed then pour the mixture into the prepared tin and leave to cool until set. Cut into generous chunks and put into gift bags.
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