Sunday 24 November 2013

Stirring It Up

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people etc etc. Yes, a whole year has rolled around since I posted the post at

and we are back to "Stir Up Sunday" again. For my Irish readers this is a rather nice little British (and probably Protestant) Calendar Custom when it came time for the cooks of the parish to mix up their ingredients for Christmas Pud and Christmas Cake to give them time to 'meld' (for flavours to merge) and the Vicar would select the above 'collect' from the Book of Common Prayer which would remind the cooks. I have no idea how traditional this really is but it's a nice story and it happens in The Archers, so it MUST be true.

We do it in this house, anyway, and Liz was there today with a table covered in the different packets and tubs of suet, dried fruit, glace cherries, bowls of eggs, the bottle of brandy and the rest. We use an old family recipe which comes to us from Pud Lady and which I believe comes from our family's ancient and venerable, much thumbed and well used recipe book which we know as 'Flo' (It's Florence somebody or other). Pud Lady may correct me if I am wrong. Last year we almost had a two-fold disaster when firstly Pud Lady, relating the recipe over the phone, omitted bread crumbs and also, we were so short of eggs that we were anxiously waiting on one of the hens to lay that day's egg before we could proceed. Luckily the bread crumbs did not seem to matter and the hen laid her egg - the result was a delicious success after all. This year we have a glut of eggs and we have added the bread crumbs to our saved version of the recipe.

Goldie Rabbit gets two visitors.
In their own attempt to stir things up, the Irish Rugby team almost beat the All Blacks, being beaten by only 2 points just 4 minutes from the final whistle. It would have been the first win over the New Zealanders for a hundred years or so. We deny ourselves the permission to follow these matches lest we jinx the team as I used to do to England when ever I watched them but my absence today was not enough. I understand it was a gripping match.

4 trees as delivered.
For me, a very enjoyable job today and another milestone in the November sunshine, once the mist had been burned off. I receive through the mail via Anne and Simon, my fruit trees ordered from "Future Forests". These are my last four for the orchard, filling the final four slots in my 6 by 4 array, a 2nd "Braeburn" apple, a "Sunburst" dark dessert cherry, a crab apple named "Golden Hornet" and a black mulberry.

Each has a small story and a reason to be included. The Braeburn is a potential substitute for my existing tree which is suffering a bit from a canker like lesion which has nearly gone right round the main trunk from a side bud. The cherry is the closest we could get to the Black Wonder we grew in Kent. We'd heard about it from a Bob Flowerdew answer on Gardeners' Question Time and had to have it specially grafted by Brogdale, the famous Fruit Research Station (which was in our town) as a one-off order. The Sunburst looks quite dark in the catalogue picture (though not on the pictorial label) so we will have to wait and see whether we have a "dark dessert cherry" at all.

The Black Mulberry harks back to my University days when the college with which I was associated while doing my research, Wolfson College, Cambridge, had a huge black mulberry tree growing in front of the main doors which used to literally drip the black sweet juicy fruit all over the flagstones but which we students used to happily 'scrump' every time we walked past. The crab apple harks back to our family home in Hastings, where Pud Lady and my Brother, Tom, still live. There is a magnificent crab apple in the front garden which gave us boys no end of pleasure in the climbing and in the harvesting of the crabs for making crab apple jelly and wine.

Well, those four trees are now in place and the orchard, nicely grazed short by the geese, is complete. We hope for great things over the coming years as the trees establish and grow. We have a vision of looking down the rows between the blossom and of picking plenty of fruit as it comes ripe. This year the trees were all very young (the first trees were planted in August 2012) so we got some blossom this year but the only fruit which set was on a plum, which gave us 2 dozen lovely fruit. Next year, who knows? Apples, pears? Quince and greengage?  Plums and dessert or sour cherries? Damsons and Mulberries? Hazelnuts and crab apples? We'll have to wait and see.


anne wilson said...

Our stir up Sunday is delayed waiting for our wholefood order to arrive which includes all our dried fruit, and I had forgotten to order my suet from the farmers market, hopefully all will have arrived next week and we can have a late Stir up Sunday'.

Matt Care said...

Ah well. We actually had a 'Soak Up Saturday' the day before our Sunday; we give the fruit a night soaking in the brandy before it goes into the mix.

anne wilson said...

I'm just glad we no longer make them for sale, I remember one Xmas where we had a further order for twelve doz on the 20th Dec!We had been making them for a month before then and thought we had finished. As we proved that year it makes little difference to the time that they are kept for, it's the initial boiling that is important.