Jane Pikett sets about important Christmas present making
Christmas things to make your heart sing – the service of Nine Lessons and Carols, the dog wearing a big red bow tie, and boozy fruit preserved in pretty jars. What more could you want?
I’ll be honest, I am not giving you a lot of time to get this landed in time for Christmas gift giving because of course the longer you soak it, the better the fruit is, but even with a week’s soaking, it is seasonally imbued with spice and the best of the booze, and it makes for a lovely present on Christmas Day or for a New Year party offering.
There are numerous options, all of them asking for little more than fruit, sugar syrup, booze, a pretty jar and a nice festive bow. What to use? Well, in my experience, raspberries love vodka, plums like brandy, while and I am told that pineapple enjoys Crème de Menthe, but I’ll leave that to others of a stronger constitution.
Peaches are my favourite – they are so fat and pretty in a nice jar, while plums, apricots, pears and plump red cherries are equally pleasing. Any high-proof spirit such as brandy, rum, vodka, port or gin will work with all manner of fruits, served warm or cold with well whipped cream. Obviously, you’ve been thinking about this all year so you’ve collected some nicely shaped jars. You haven’t? Worry not, a good cookshop such as Walton’s in Corbridge or La Cookshop at Blagdon will provide, and then you just need some nice bits to decorate them with, like cinnamon sticks tied with twine or ribbons with little bells.
How to do it
The most important thing is to keep it simple and not get too hung up on quantities. You can make a sugar syrup and match its quantity with your chosen spirit and soak the fruit in that, or just pour booze over the fruit, add a few spoonfuls of sugar and shake the jar gently to mix it and the alcohol acts as a preserver. Here are some suggested quantities for recipes using sugar syrup, and some which go the whole hog and just stick to the booze. Either way,
they will keep you and your
Sugar syrup recipes:
Peaches in rum 6 ripe firm peaches, 400g sugar and 280ml water boiled and simmered to a syrup, 2 halved cinnamon sticks, 170ml white or dark rum
Cherries in Kirsch 600g dark red cherries with stalks on, 280g sugar and 280ml water boiled and simmered to a syrup, 110ml Kirschwasser
Oranges in brandy 12 small oranges, 400g sugar and 280ml water boiled and simmered to a syrup, 2tsp allspice berries, 170ml brandy
Booze and sugar recipes:
Plums in brandy 2 handfuls small plums, 225ml brandy, 225g granulated sugar
Strawberries in sherry 400g strawberries, 225ml cream sherry, 225g granulated sugar
Pears in port 4 firm ripe pears, 180g sugar, 3 x 1cm strips orange peel, 1 x 1cm strip lemon peel, 1 stick cinnamon, 225ml port wine