Friday 22 December 2017


With the Dans out of the way, we are now on the run-in to 'proper' Christmas, killing our own turkey, doing the big food-shop and any other acquisitive missions which become necessary, doing any food prep that can be done before the day, and generally getting the place ready for our Seasonal visitors. It is an exciting one, this one, as we are happily welcoming into our home at this important time, 3 people only one of whom we have ever met before. How brave is that? What could possibly go wrong? :-)

A very generous gift of this yule log table
centre decoration comes from a good
village friend, along with a bag of red beet
which he knows we love.
Yep. These people are our French Help-X volunteer from September, Augustin (a.k.a. 'AB') and his mother and younger sister. When AB was here helping, it was just a month out of his 5-month tour of Ireland and we worked out that he'd therefore be still in Ireland over Christmas. We wondered whether he'd be a bit lost in a strange city or might be going home to family for the holiday.

The car gets a jet-wash at the local valet place. It's not been so
clean since we've had it. 
We ended up inviting him back here for the 24th-26th and then, when he found that his Mum and Sister would be coming over to see him, we asked him to bring them too. Liz loves doing this 'hospitality' as you know and will love the chance to practise her French and reminisce about Paris and it will be great fun to see AB again. We will both thoroughly enjoy showing these French folk how Christmas is done in Ireland. Not sure what they'll make of it. We know that they are all really looking forward to it. I will tell you all how it went in the next post. Joyeux Noël!

Bringing the big turkey in for Liz to 'process'.
One dog, at least, is interested. 
Because of all this, we are in a frantic 'prep' mode but as the guests do not arrive until a Christmas Eve afternoon train from Dublin, we can do it all in safety and privacy - no-one to see our frantic chasing about. I dinged the 2nd turkey-stag (the one for here) on the 20th. I like to do all my 'killing' prior to the Solstice. It might just be a silly foible, but prior to the shortest day we are on a down-slope and it is OK to finish a few birds, but after 21st, when we are climbing back up out, it feels wrong to be ending anyone's time on earth.

Fast handiwork in the de-feathering dept. 
This fella looked nearly as big as the one Liz took down to the In-Laws last week. He continued to look that big as he was plucked out and 'dressed' (euphemism for disemboweling and removing extraneous lower legs, head and "giblets" (another euphemism)).

The trussed, short-fuselage version. 
Because they get a night dead, hanging up, head down, by their feet, they come into the kitchen with their legs straight out behind them. This guy, oven ready, gave us quite a scare, being "too big for the oven". We had visions of having to joint him up and cook him in bits - the 'crown' (bone-in both breasts), wings and legs.

Resting in the afternoon
I knew I could do better with a bit of amateur trussing, so I brought him back in from the fridge and heaved his legs into a squat-bend. He is a muscly chap but I prevailed. I lashed his ankle joints together and down to his 'parson's nose' and then ran my twine round under his armpits, shortening his profile by a good 6 inches. Liz always cooks these whole turkeys 'empty' with the 'stuffing' in a separate tray, to let the heat straight into the body cavity, so we can also push the front opening closed without any stuffing bulge. Even shorter. He now fits on the roasting tray, and therefore in the oven. He weighs 8.7 kg and we are very proud of him. He is survived by our hen bird who is only about 4 kg and will now be a keeper till spring. She may give us some eggs.

More left-overs. This one a burger risotto. 
What else have we done? The big 6 kg Christmas ham we brined and froze back in the Autumn had to come out of the freezer to thaw for 24 hours. That big joint gets boiled briefly and then simmered for 6 hours in (cheap, fake) coca-cola. It is the only time we buy 'coke' all year, not being fans of fizzy pop at all. The big lump of meat then gets cooled down and, before the Big Day, has its skin removed and then that fancy diamond design cut into into the sub-cutaneous fat. We stick a clove into each diamond and glaze with some combination of the coke-liquor and mustard to give the lovely golden colour to the baked ham.

Extracting venison marrow using a corkscrew for the dogs,
We did clean the corkscrew afterwards!
Liz has also been whizzing up stuffing mixes, soaking chick-peas for hummus and worrying about other Christmas specials like fancy custard, mince pies, red cabbage, cocktail sausages, pomegranates and so on. Liz went present-shopping to Sligo today, so she's now all over me for having 'finished hers' when I still have a mini-mission to do tomorrow. All good clean fun.

By the time I talk to you again, it will all be over.

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