Luke Honey

Christmas Cooking

Christmas Cooking
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I’m fascinated by the history and mythology of Christmas. Up until the 1890’s, most English families if they were lucky, ate goose; turkey was a luxury only enjoyed by the few. The Anglo-American Christmas, as we know and love it today, is really a Victorian invention: influenced by the sentiment of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, Prince Albert’s cosy family celebrations at Windsor; and in the last century, the schmaltz of Hollywood movies such as Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life.

One of the most appealing things about the traditional British Christmas is an old-fashioned York Ham- dry cured with salt, saltpetre, juniper berries and pepper, and then matured for about six weeks.  I have to admit to preferring it to the ubiquitous turkey.  Almost. And when it’s on your plate in impossibly thin slices topped with a tangy Cumberland sauce, the world suddenly becomes an exceedingly good place.

Do you remember when there was a run on cranberries a few years back?  What on earth was all that about?  In my own unbiased opinion, English Cumberland Sauce is infinitely preferable to Cranberry Sauce.  If you want to try it out this year, I’m going to let the readers of The Coffee House into the secret:

Cut up some orange peel into thin strips, and then boil them to remove the bitterness.  In another small pan, melt four heaped tablespoons of redcurrant jelly, along with a teaspoon of ground ginger.  Next, pour in a decent slug of port, the juice of one orange, and half a lemon.  Stir well, and add the blanched orange strips.  Cumberland sauce should be served cold, and the sauce should be thin.