Our resident food columnist Jan Fullwood gets into the Christmas spirit with local festive happenings…
Who’s feeling festive yet? After last year’s damp squib of a Christmas, everyone wants to make the most of it this year. Local towns are dusting off the Christmas lights, the Grinch has been banished and Christmas is bigger and better than ever before.
For me, the last Sunday before advent signals the start of the festive period. Known as Stir up Sunday, it’s the day to get the Christmas baking underway. Time to make the cake, mincemeat and pudding to allow them to mature and allow flavours to develop before the big day. It’s the opportunity to get the family together to stir the pudding from East to West, in the path of the Wise men as tradition goes, and most importantly to make a wish.
But don’t worry if baking’s not your thing, there’s plenty to help to get into the Christmas spirit. Although a few events won’t be running again this year (still no skating at Van Hage’s, or Ware’s much loved Dickensian evening), there are plenty of other Christmas light displays, markets and festive entertainment to get you in the mood, so here’s a round up of events.
Local Christmas events
Hertford’s Christmas lights were lit on Friday 26 at the Hertford Xmas Gala. In addition there is a Christmas market in the Castle grounds continuing all weekend, to start the Christmas countdown off in earnest.
This year, the lights in Hatfield and Welwyn have been switched on virtually, but there is still plenty to see on the Welwyn Garden Christmas trail A Christmas to remember in Welwyn Hatfield.
As mentioned, there will be no Ware Dickensian Evening evening this year, but there are plans to relaunch early in the new year. I for one will be visiting the Ware Christmas Farmers’ and Craft Market Community or Festivals – Southern Maltings and I may even have a picture with the giant bear in the High Street (pictured).
The Christmas Fair – Knebworth House starts on the 26th November. It looks like tickets are selling out fast, so why not try one of the less commercial, local Christmas markets such as the Bishop Stortford Christmas Fair Christmas Fayre 2021 – Bishop’s Stortford Town Council on Saturday 4 December in the town centre, Redbourn Christmas Market – Hertfordshire’s famous festive village … on Sunday 28th November or the Hitchin Christmas Market on Hitchin Christmas Market on 8 December.
If you’re still looking to buy your turkey and all the trimmings, keep it local and try Black Grove Farm this year. The animals are all free range and outdoor raised on the community farm at Colliers End near Ware.
Or take the opportunity to try before you buy at Foxholes Farm in Hertford Heath. Christmas tastings of their home reared meat and produce is between 11am-3pm at weekends in the run up to Christmas.
Local good causes
It’s all too easy to go mad at Christmas, but without sounding too ‘Bah Humbug’, be conscious not to buy more than you need to avoid food waste, and don’t forget those less fortunate. Love your leftovers (who doesn’t love a turkey sandwich or turkey curry?) and check out two wonderful local charities who have set up the means to ensure that those in need receive help over the Christmas period, and would welcome your support.
Cynthia Stroud’s charity Jedidiah Hertford and Hertfood, set up by Debs Bonfield from Manic Ceramics and Annegret Scott, both help to provide food for local families in need. Jedidiah are also holding an indoor Christmas market on the 26th and 27th November, 11th and 18th December at their premises on Fore Street in Hertford. It’s free entry so do drop in.
I’ll leave you with a recipe for homemade mincemeat. It’s fresher, sharper and less sweet that shop bought, and is as easy as pie to make.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… let the Christmas celebrations commence, and here’s to a happy and healthy restriction free Christmas for all this year.
Cranberry and Ginger Mincemeat
Makes around 800g
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook 5 mins
300g dried mixed fruit
100g fresh or frozen cranberries
50g soft prunes, roughly chopped
2 apples, peeled, cored and grated
100g dark muscovado sugar
75g vegetable suet
100ml ginger wine
Zest and juice of 1 large orange
1tsp mixed spice
1tsp ground cinnamon
Mix all the ingredients in a large saucepan, and place over a medium heat.
Stir to dissolve the sugar then bring to the boil and simmer for 4-5minutes until the cranberries burst .
Turn off the heat and leave to cool, preferably overnight.
Once cool, put half of the mixture into a food processor and process until chopped.
Mix the chopped fruit back into the remaining whole fruit.
Put into sterilised jars, seal, label and leave to mature for a couple of weeks to allow the flavours to develop. Once opened, store in the fridge for 4-6 weeks.
Perfect for mince pies just in time for Christmas, using your favourite pastry whether shop bought or home-made (no-one’s judging).