They call it the most wonderful time of the year and with Christmas mere days away now, it’s time to take stock of your larder and get organised for all the upcoming festivities!
Our Larder Love series has explored various traditional methods from our culinary past; from pickling to drying to preserving all that fresh produce we’re so blessed to have. But did you know that many Christmas traditions also have their origins in the old school larder and have been enjoyed for decades or even centuries? Think Christmas goodies like fruit mince pies (which historically contained meat!), Christmas fruit cake, apple cider, cranberry sauce and the good old Christmas pudding to name just a few.
Fruit Cake for example, is actually a recipe dating back 2000 years to ancient Rome! Later and out of necessity, our ever-thrifty ancestors made fruit cake out of fruits they harvested without the need to purchase expensive sugars or sweeteners. This historical cake was made weeks ahead of Christmas (to allow the flavour to develop) using larder staples like dried fruit, or fruit preserved in alcohol, alongside nuts and spices. This popular cake soon took off all over Europe and beyond with many countries inventing their own version of the traditional fruit cake. From Panettone & Panforte in Italy, to Stollen in Germany, to Keks in Poland to Gâteau Aux Fruits in France. An added bonus of fruit cake being when a good helping of alcohol is added, it could be stored and enjoyed for many months. In fact, a 106-year-old fruitcake was discovered in 2017 by the Antarctic Heritage Trust and was described as being in "excellent condition" and "almost" edible!
Christmas (or plum) Pudding is another Christmas favourite that dates back centuries. These puddings are often enjoyed at the end of the traditional British Christmas dinner. But what we know as Christmas pudding today is a far cry from its early origins! Christmas pudding dates back to the 14th century and was actually a porridge called frumenty that was made of beef and mutton with sultanas, currants, prunes, wines and spices. People ate this porridge on Christmas Eve, to fill them up after a day of fasting. Soon dried fruit, spices and honey were added to the porridge, and eventually it turned into the Christmas pudding we know and love today.
With all the frenzy Christmas shopping can cause, why not impress your family and friends with some yummy home-made Christmas Treats instead? I know I’d rather be in my own kitchen, cooking up a storm while listening to some good old Christmas music than battling the Christmas crowds!
There are so many simple and delicious larder goodies you could gift or just enjoy yourself! Think mouth-watering treats like home-made jams or fruit syrups for your pancake breakfasts, cute jars of marinated olives, or bouquets of fragrant dried herbs and sachets of flavoured salts to add to those Christmas roasts. You could even gift cute jars of pickles (which you may have prepared earlier in the year) that make a great accompaniment to many Christmas dishes. For some Christmas pickle inspiration and easy recipes have a look at this delicious list from SBS food.
Such lovingly made gifts are bound to be better than anything you could buy ready-made and you’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing you’re helping the environment by gifting more sustainably. For more sustainable gift ideas for Christmas, take a look at our Celebrating Sustainably series.
All you need to get started are some pretty jars or bottles (sterilised of course!), some cellophane bags, twine or ribbon, and some pretty hand-written labels. As well as personal greetings, you can also add ingredients and any special storage instructions on your labels.
There are so many recipes out there for simple home-made Christmas treats but to get you started we’ve found this delicious Nigella Lawson Fig and Olive Chutney recipe. It not only heroes some traditional larder fruits and spices, it also pairs wonderfully with some Italian Cheese! Take a look at the recipe here.
Hopefully our articles on Larder Love continue to inspire you to put some love back in your kitchen and to discover the deeply satisfying pleasure that can only come from cooking and gifting your own home-made goodies. Merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone!