By Emma Taylor
Mince pies are one of the classics of the festive season, and there is little more comforting than pie when the days grow longer and colder. I was on my year abroad last year, and remember trying to explain to my Erasmus housemates the concept of Britain’s most beloved sweet treat of December – pastry wrapping mincemeat which, bizarrely enough, doesn’t actually include any meat. On the 1st December I got the half-hour bus ride into the centre of the city to go to the only shop I knew of which sold English food and crammed my basket with them. Sitting back in my room, eating a mince pie and listening to All I Want for Christmas Is You, it felt like Christmas had arrived.
Mince pies are lovely on their own with a cup of tea or hot chocolate as an afternoon treat, but they can also be made into a festive pudding. Warm them up and serve with cream or ice cream, and a glass of mulled wine.
Christmas sandwiches can be considered the modern era’s contribution to the food world of the festive season. Whilst throughout the rest of the year a turkey sandwich is not in the top ten in the meal deal selection, add cranberry sauce in December and suddenly it’s a bestseller. Brie and cranberry sauce is also a very festive sandwich filling to brighten lunchtime with some Christmas cheer. The Christmas sandwich has become such a huge part of the Christmas foodie industry that food outlets try to outcompete each other every year with evermore festive creations. There are even unofficial rankings (looking closely at the turkey-stuffing-cranberry sauce ratio), so if you want to get the best Christmas sandwich, do your research beforehand!
The ultimate drink at Christmas markets, mulled wine is one of the most festive flavours around. Whilst hot, sweet red wine may not sound appealing at first glance, when added to spices – cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and star anise are particularly associated with it – it becomes Christmas in a cup. A delicious way to warm yourself up wandering around the Christmas market in mid-December, it can also easily be made at home with red wine and spices. This is a drink associated with Christmas all around Europe – if you’re in Germany, home of the ultimate Christmas markets, be sure to try a glass of Glüwein!
Tradition dictates that if you’re making your own Christmas pudding, it needs to be done weeks in advance for the flavours to really develop before the big day. There are all sorts of rather lovely myths surrounding the making of Christmas puddings so that making them has almost become an event in itself. Make a wish when stirring the mixture, and people often put a silver coin into the mixture which would bring wealth to whoever found it in their portion (which would hopefully make up for their broken tooth). Served at the end of the Christmas day meal, brandy is poured over the pudding and then set alight, so the entire pudding is momentarily engulfed in blue flame. Christmas pudding can also be known as ‘plum pudding’, although, like mince pies and mincemeat, the pudding and plums have never met.
Photographs in descending order: Embem30 via Flickr, Emma Taylor, Simon Doggett via Flickr, Magnus D via Flickr, Simone via Flickr