July? Christmas starts here....with a big cherry on top
National Christmas feasts may vary, but where ever you are in the world, the best festive menus are punctuated by reminders of the years harvests – fruits and nuts preserved in syrups, liqueurs’, chutneys and jellies all contribute to the intense and joyous flavours that add to a sense of celebration at Christmas.
Cherries are adored in their short season in both Scandinavia and Britain, where the climates are ideally suited for abundant crops. Deep, sweet and sour juices are one of the best flavours of summer, but as the short season comes to its end, cherries loose their depth of flavor and are best destined for preserving - in brandy, jams, glace or in syrups. A few months in a bottle intensifies the flavour and turns them into jewels worth centre place of a festive celebration, and that’s exactly what Danish families do, where as cherries are usually hidden in Christmas cakes and puddings in Britain, In Scandinavia, they don’t hide their lights under bushels and make cherries the crown on a creamy rice pudding Ris A Al Mande, eaten all over Scandinavia on Christmas Eve; comforting rice pudding, vanilla hued cherries; Ris A Al Mande is a Scandinavian secret that cries out to be imported into our Christmas Eve rituals!
(Photograph by Lars Ranek)
Now is the time to preserve the last of the summers cherries. Trines recipe calls for cherries with their original tartness in place, so either pit cherries and store them in the freezer, or preserve them in a light sugar syrup using this easy bottling technique
What you’ll need:
preserving jar (a screw top kilner)
115g sugar per 600ml of water
700g pitted cherries (don’t throw away the pits – they make delicious cherry pit liqueur!)
- Pre heat your oven to 150c
- Sterilize the preserving jar, and pack in the cherries leaving 1cm space at the top of the jar.
- Pour the water and sugar in a pan and over a low heat, slowly bring the water to a gentle boil. Watch the pan and simmer until the solution is clear and sugar fully dissolved.
- Pour the syrup over the cherries and fill to the brim with hot syrup, making sure that there are no air bubbles in the jar (bang the jars lightly to remove air bubbles)
- Fit the preserving lids leaving the lids ¼ of a turn loosened
- Carefully place the jar on a baking tray lined with a newspaper or silicone mat, heat for 50 minutes (if you are processing more than 1 jar, make sure that the jars are not touching each other)
- Remove the jar and tighten the lid immediately
(processing the jar in the oven or a water bath forms a seal from air, essential to preserving the fruit)
Here is Trine Hahnemann’s recipe for the delicious Rice pudding with warm cherry sauce (Serves 6), as featured in her book SCANDINAVIAN CHRISTMAS (Published by Quadrille £16.99 hard back)
4 litres organic whole milk
2 vanilla pods
250g short grain pudding rice
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp caster sugar
150g blanched almonds
200ml double cream
700g pitted cherries, fresh, frozen or in brine
200g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
3 tbsp cornflour
This is my favourite pudding for Christmas Eve. When serving it, you also play a little Christmas game. The rice pudding is served in a large bowl. Just before you take it to the table, add one whole almond and stir so nobody knows where it is. Everybody eats until someone finds the almond. You are allowed to cheat and hide the almond from the others if you find it, because the point of the game is to make the others keep eating while trying to find the almond. In the end, when a person can no longer hide that he or she has the almond, the person receives a present. Make the rice pudding and the cherry sauce the day before serving
gently heat 1.3 litres of the milk in a large saucepan. Slit one of the vanilla pods lengthways, without cutting it all the way through. Just before the milk starts to boil, add the rice and the slit vanilla pod. Cook gently for 30 minutes, stirring slowly and frequently so that it doesn’t burn. Remove the pan from the heat and add the salt. Cover and leave for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, stir in the sugar and leave to cool (or until the next day).
remove the vanilla pod and transfer the rice mixture to a large bowl. Chop the almonds coarsely except for one, which you save for the game. Whip the cream in a bowl until it forms soft peaks. Slit the second vanilla pod lengthways and scrape out the seeds with the tip of a knife. Add them to the rice. Gently fold in the remaining milk, then fold in one-third of the whipped cream. When the mixture is smooth, fold in the rest of the whipped cream and the chopped almonds. Taste the pudding: it should be sweet with a flavour of vanilla. Spoon the pudding into a serving bowl and hide the almond. Cover and place the bowl in the refrigerator.
to make the cherry sauce, put the fruit in a saucepan with the sugar, vanilla pod and water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Dissolve the cornflour in enough water to make a thin paste and slowly add it into the cherry sauce, stirring constantly until it thickens and comes slowly to the boil. Taste and add some more sugar if necessary but do not make it too sweet because the rice pudding is very sweet and the cherry sauce should add some acidity to it.
shortly before you are going to serve the rice pudding, reheat the sauce and serve it on the side in a bowl
Trine and Liz are co-hosting 'Forage Ahead for Christmas' a Tutored Tasting at this year Abergavenny Food Festival