Tuesday, December 15, 2015

"Christmas Around The World" Day--3 Recipes--"Wassail Recipe” & "Christmas Quick Coffee Torte"

“In the bleak midwinter, Frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone; Snow had fallen, snow on snow, Snow on snow, In the bleak midwinter, Long Ago.”by Christina Rossetti, A Christmas Carol
Welcome to the 3rd day of “Christmas Around The World!” For my readers who are new, everyday for the next 12 days, till Christmas Eve, I will post a story of a country of the world and a Santa that goes according to the countries customs and traditions. Besides the World Santa’s, I will also share a holiday treat, a homemade gift idea, or just a favorite recipe that I think goes with that country, all leading up to “Christmas Eve.” This has been an incredible year! I have met many people, learned many new things, but most of all, I want to say thank you to my readers, as we prepare for the most joyous time of the year!

Day # 3, my country today is England or sometimes called The UK or Great Britain!

In England, families often celebrate Christmas together, so they can watch each other open their presents! Most families have a Christmas Tree (or maybe even two!) in their house for Christmas. The decorating of the tree is usually a family occasion, with everyone helping. Christmas Trees were first popularized the UK by Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria. Prince Albert was German, and thought that it would be good to use one of his ways of celebrating Christmas in to England. Holly, Ivy, and Mistletoe are also sometimes used to decorate homes or other buildings.

Most villages, towns, and cities are decorated with Christmas lights. Often a famous person switches them on. The most famous Christmas lights in the UK are in Oxford Street in London. Every year they get bigger and better. Thousands of people go to watch the big “switch on” around the beginning of November. Oxford Street is decorated with festive lights and they remain lit until Twelve Night (January 5th).

Like a lot of countries, Nativity Plays and Carol Services are also very popular at Christmas time. Children believe that Father Christmas or Santa Claus leaves presents in stockings or pillow-cases. These are normally hung up by the fire or by the children's beds on Christmas Eve. Children sometimes leave out mince pies and brandy for Father Christmas to eat and drink when he visits them. Now, some people say that a non-alcoholic drink should be left for Santa as he has to drive his sleigh! Children write letters to Father Christmas-Santa listing their requests, but sometimes instead of putting them in the post, the letters are tossed into the fireplace. The letters go up the chimney and Father Christmas-Santa reads the smoke. There are some customs that only take place, or were started, in the UK. Wassailing is an old custom that doesn't take place much today. 

The tradition of wassailing falls into two distinct categories: The house-visiting wassail and the orchard-visiting wassail. The house-visiting Wassail, caroling is the practice of people going door-to-door singing Christmas carols. The orchard wassail refers to the beverage of hot mulled cider, a traditional drink as an integral part of wassailing. A Medieval southern English drinking ritual intended to ensure a good cider apple harvest the following year. Wassail is a hot, mulled punch often associated with Yuletide drunk made by a mulled cider made with sugar, cinnamon,  ginger, and nutmeg. Modern recipes begin with a base of wine, fruit juice or mulled ale, sometimes with brandy or sherry added, apples or oranges are often added to the mix.

In the UK, the main Christmas Meal is usually eaten at lunchtime or early afternoon on Christmas Day. It's normally roast turkey, roast vegetables and “all the trimmings” which means vegetables like carrots and peas, stuffing and sometimes bacon and sausages. It's often served with cranberry sauce and bread sauce. (Traditionally, and before turkey was available, roast beef or goose was the main Christmas meal. One vegetable that is often at Christmas in the UK are brussel sprouts. My dad and I love them but many people do not! Dessert is often Christmas Pudding. Mince pies and lots of chocolates are often eaten as well! The UK is also famous for Christmas Cake - some people love it and some people really don't like it! Can you imagine that...I say pass the cheesecake to me, please! It's traditionally a rich fruit cake covered with marzipan and icing and often top with Christmas themed cake decorations like a spring of holly.

The dinner table is decorated with “Christmas Crackers” for each person and sometimes flowers and candles. Christmas crackers are a traditional Christmas favorite in the UK. They were first made in about 1845-1850 by a London sweet maker called Tom Smith. However, one night, while he was sitting in front of his log fire, he became very interested by the sparks and cracks coming from the fire. Suddenly, he thought what a fun idea it would be, if his sweets and toys could be opened with a crack when their fancy wrappers were pulled in half. The idea he had is still used today. They are short cardboard tubes wrapped in colorful paper. There is normally a Cracker next to each plate on the Christmas dinner table. When the crackers are pulled with a bang, a colorful party hat, a toy or gift and a festive joke falls out! The party hats look like crowns and it is thought that they symbolize the crowns that might have been worn by the Wise Men. The British Royal Family still has special crackers made for them today!

Queen Elizabeth "Queens Speech"
Every Christmas Day at 3 p.m. the queen addresses the nation in what is known as the Queen’s Speech. The queen normally speaks about important events in the British Commonwealth as well as some personal words about the festive period.

One of my recipes that I am sharing today is a beverage with mulled hot punch often associated with Yuletide. Historically, the drink was a mulled cider made with sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Apples or oranges where often added to the mix. Wassailing is an ancient English custom. The master of the English household drank to the health of those present saying the phrase, “Wass hael” which means “be whole” or “be well.”

“Wassail Recipe”

1 cup of sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
3 lemon slices
2 cups of pineapple juice
2 cups of orange juice
6 cups dry red wine
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 cup of dry sherry
2 lemons, sliced
2 oranges, sliced

Boil the sugar, cinnamon sticks, and 3 lemon slices in 1/2 cup of water for 5 minutes and strain. Discard the cinnamon sticks and lemon slices. Heat but do not boil the remaining ingredients. Combine with the syrup, garnish with the lemon or orange slices, and serve hot. 

Yield: 20 servings  

Recipe taken from “The Williamsburg Cookbook”

Remember that the holiday season should be a time for merriment, so please drink responsibly.

"British Santa"

My second recipe is a “Christmas Quick Coffee Torte” that would look and taste delicious on any English Christmas table.

Christmas Quick Coffee Torte

6-8 Servings Prep/Total Time: 20 min.

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
1-1/2 teaspoons butter
1-2 teaspoons rum 

(depends on how you like the taste)
1 frozen pound cake (10-3/4 ounces), thawed
Fresh whipped cream
Grated chocolate, optional

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water and coffee. Bring to a boil; cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat; stir in butter and rum. Cool slightly. Split cake into three horizontal layers. Place bottom layer on a serving plate. Brush with about 1 tablespoon coffee mixture; spread with 1 cup whipped cream. Repeat layers. Brush remaining coffee mixture over cut side of remaining cake layer; place coffee side down over whipped cream. Spread remaining whipped cream over top of torte. Garnish with grated chocolate if desired. Chill until serving.

Yield: 6-8 servings

****Make sure you return tomorrow for another country (Day 4) and another fabulous recipe…

Till Next Time………………………….

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