The Main Menu: Mulling over some recipes for this Christmas season

Jan Main shares a gingerbread recipe from the Fort York cookbook in this edition of The Main Menu.

By JAN MAIN

The Christmas season is going to be a little different this year. Celebrations will have to be modified with COVID-19 in mind.

However, fun, frolic and festivities are still on the menu. Here are some suggestions to put a safe spin on future activities.

Mulled Cider

Even on the cold days ahead, our patios, gardens and balconies may have to replace our living rooms for social activities due to the pandemic. Why not plan an outdoor activity: skating, hiking, tobogganing, or snow shoeing with friends, where a cup of steaming cider and other hot nibbles are served as a welcome refreshment.

This recipe is equally good made with apple juice or cider and can be ready in minutes.

2 L (8 cups) cider or pure apple juice
1 each, lemon and orange, washed and sliced
6 whole cloves
1 or 2 cinnamon sticks

In a large stainless-steel saucepan, add cider, lemon and orange slices (cut in half), cloves and cinnamon sticks. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer 10 to 15 minutes.

You can serve in mugs immediately or turn heat off and leave covered until ready to serve later in the day. It may also be refrigerated overnight and re-heated later. The flavours develop with time.

Makes eight servings. Recipe may be halved or doubled.

Mulled Wine

Another warming, tasty drink, this one has more of a kick.

Just a word of caution, it tastes great, but hot alcohol goes straight to the head. Limit your consumption and serve with food!

1 cup (250 mL) water
3/4 cup (125-175 mL granulated sugar (depends on sweetness of wine used.)
8 whole cloves
4 cinnamon sticks
1 each, lemon and orange, washed and sliced with skin on
2 bottles of dry red wine

In a large stainless- steel saucepan, combine water, sugar, cloves, cinnamon sticks, lemon and orange slices together. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes.

If you like texture in your beverage, leave the cloves, cinnamon sticks and citrus slices in the water. However, if you want a smooth drink; sieve and discard. (Personally, I love the spices and citrus in my drink. If you do, leave as is and add the dry red wine.) Bring to a boil; reduce heat to simmer for about five minutes.

Ladle spiced wine into mugs. Makes about 8 to 10 cups.

Hard Gingerbread

This is my favourite recipe from Fort York’s cookbook, Setting a Fine Table, Historical Desserts and Drinks from the Officers’ Kitchens at Fort York. Gingerbread is made regularly there, for the public viewing the historic kitchen and for special Christmas events. (The book makes an excellent gift, available through Amazon)

Gingerbread can be used a number of ways:

• Cookies. Once rolled, the dough can be cut into any number of suitable shapes: stars, trees and gingerbread people, then scents the kitchen with spicy fragrance.
• Gingerbread House.Double the recipe and you will have enough to make a gingerbread house.
• Ornaments. If you wish, make Christmas ornaments: roll out the dough, cut out the chosen shape, poke a small hole through the top of the raw cookie with the tip of a knife; bake it and thread a ribbon through the hole as a Christmas decoration.
• Party: Gingerbread is delicious to eat but it also makes the focus for a party.

1 cup (250 mL) soft butter (leave out over night to soften)
1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
1 cup (250 mL) fancy molasses
4 cups (1 L) all-purpose flour
2 tbsp (25 mL) ground ginger
1 tsp (5 mL) each, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and baking soda

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the molasses until smooth.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and baking soda. Stir into molasses mixture one cup (250 mL) at a time. Press the dough together. Knead gently a few times until smooth. Divide in half.

You can roll the dough out immediately between two pieces of waxed paper holding edges of paper firmly between the counter and your stomach to keep it straight.

Alternatively, you can form each half of the dough into a disc, wrap separately and chill until firm, about 1 hour. Let soften slightly at room temperature before rolling.

Roll out the dough one disc at a time, on a well-floured work surface to 1/8- inch (3 mm) thickness. Using plain or fancy cookie cutters, cut into shapes. Arrange one inch (2.5 centimetres) apart on prepared baking sheets. Form the scraps into a disc and reroll for more cookies.

Bake in centre of preheated oven about 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly darkened on the bottom and firm to the touch.

Let gingerbread firm up about three minutes before removing from baking sheet to cooling rack.Makes about ninety two-inch (5 centimetre) cookies.

To Store: Layer in cookie tins for a few days or freeze for up to two weeks.


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