Holiday revelations

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Christmas Markets Stuttgart

The festive season is finally done and dusted and it’s time to get back into the swing of things. Right now, this is involving aching all over from the revived exercise regime and reviewing all my recent extravagant eBay purchases and Christmas DIYs, oh, and working out exactly what to do with my growing stash in 2015. As with any New Year, there’s a hint of sadness, based largely around being unable to buy Glühwein for another 11 months …

And so on to Holiday Revelation No.1: GINGER. Why had I never thought of making this stuff before? Various gift ideas led me to try preserved ginger, which costs a small fortune to buy, if you can even find it, and candied ginger. I borrowed from a few recipes but having looked at reviewers’ comments, decided to wing it a bit.

Crystallised ginger

For the preserved ginger it’s pretty basic: peel and weigh ginger, boil ginger in water until tender (around 1hr), then add the same weight of sugar as ginger and boil gently until the syrup reaches the consistency you’re looking for. The recipes often mention changing the water a few times, but surely you’ll lose the zingy ginger goodness this way – I just used the same batch of water and ended up with ginger that will KNOCK YOUR SOCKS OFF. Success. The whole house will also smell like a herbal medicine shop for a day or two – you’ll have to decide whether this is a good or a bad thing (the Engineer decided definitely bad).

The candied (crystallised) ginger was also fun and also ended in powerful stuff that the gift recipient reported gave mild hallucinations after more than six pieces. Not sure what we can learn from this. Moderation, perhaps? Again, it’s very simple, and I largely followed this guy. Basically follow the same procedure as for preserved ginger but keep on boiling gently until all the water has gone and the sugar starts to go foamy. You’ll be stirring frantically. I can recommend not using a teflon-coated pan for this. You will kill it. But a wide, shallow pan like a frying pan will help the water evaporate faster. The plus of this recipe is that you end up with a bunch of spicy ginger sugar too. Dip ginger in dark chocolate for extra extravagance … It’ll also take the edge off the fiery ginger slightly, if that’s what you’re looking for.

Holiday Revelation No.2 was that the knitting machine and I can be friends IF I install the yarn feeder the right way around (whoops). This was a handy revelation as for some reason I decided I needed to make three Christmas stockings in scary colours on around the 22nd of December (see this pattern). Enter knitting machine. Since then, I’ve moved past the acrylic nastiness and am onto the Engineer’s Christmas present, which traditionally arrives anything up to 12 months late: the navy merino cashmere men’s sweater. It’s horribly conventional, but I guess this is what the learning curve is all about. Luckily, I managed to complete the first sweater, and 2013 Christmas present, a cabled Aran based on Veronik Avery’s Hugo, around the first week in December. I reckon this buys me at least a few months to complete the knitting machine project.

Holiday Revelation No.3 actually began in Kingston, NY a few months before Christmas when we were served funky pink sliced eggs on a sharing plate with cocktails. Treats. Pickled eggs are quite possibly the marmite of the egg world. I know which side I come down on: hard-boiled eggs whenever you want them in zany flavours and, bonus, you can make them pink – it has to be a love. Oddly, no one else shares my passion. More for me. At the moment I’ve got the a fantastic beetroot/dill combination going on, as well as chilli, curry and a weird Chinese-inspired version make with rice vinegar and some doubanjiang (salty chilli bean paste) I found lurking in the cupboard. So far, the Chinese one is a bit of a favourite, although the eggs are suspiciously brown.

Holiday Revelation No.4 comes from discovering the true function of Weck jars. I found a bunch in the second-hand shop for pennies and topped them up with a selection from Gläser und Flaschen GmbH, which have a great selection and fantastic speedy service. The glasses are filling up with concoctions from one of my now-favourite books:  Pam Corbin’s Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No.2. Can’t wait for spring. And to find the courage (and German) to ask the mother-in-law for one of her Einkochautomats.

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Holiday Revelation No.5: Weaving is brilliant. New Modell W Webrahmen from Kircher via eBay small ads … Looking forward to lots more in 2015.

(Post-)Holiday Revelation No.6 is Julian Roberts’ subtraction cutting principle (julianand.com). Love. Everything I’ve been looking for. Too excited. Can’t wait to try.

And, just quickly, potentially the greatest Holiday Revelation of all, Holiday Revelation No.7: the  discovery on eBay of almost 4kg of vintage parachute silk yarn!!! Which really does deserve multiple exclamation marks. This stuff is a dream. Four cones of single-ply pure silk at 690 den with an understated Nm 13 printed on the still-intact brown paper wrapping. A little dusty but perfectly serviceable. It shall become so many things. Smile. Happy New Year indeed.

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