Christmas is coming and I’m so excited! A week today, Andrew and Hallie will be with us and we will have the weekend together before I go back to London on the Monday, and they go to Chicago to visit family. I have been a mother for 32 Christmases and there have only been three where I haven’t had all four of you with me – 2006 (when we went to Australia for a wedding but Andrew didn’t want to go); 2009 (when Tom was in Rajasthan); and this year. I feel very lucky.
Once Thanksgiving was over, it was officially Christmas here and even though Black Friday and Cosmic Monday are over, there are still many offers to tempt the shopper. I no longer read the emails from my favourite stores – deleting them immediately removes temptation. Shops are playing Christmas songs non-stop and I am very grateful that I don’t have to work in one of them. I would be climbing the walls by the second day. There are several Christmas markets around Manhattan and Dad and I visited the one in Union Square last Sunday. These are based on the German markets and are similar to those which have started to appear in London too. The choice of things on offer is great, but expensive, I think. We bought our last Christmas present (for Minnie) and I’m feeling rather smug about that. There are also food stalls with delicious offerings and hot cider and hot wine (neither contain any alcohol) and whilst they looked and smelled lovely, we didn’t partake.
My friend, Anne, works for the Danish Seamen’s Mission in Brooklyn, a converted brownstone which is used as a church and community centre for the Danes in this area. A couple of weekends ago, they had their annual Christmas fair. I was surprised to learn that this is their main fundraiser because in Denmark there are no collections taken during the service. ‘It’s not a very Danish thing’ I was told. The pastor’s salary is paid by the Danish government but all other expenses have to be covered from essentially this two day fair. Danish companies in the States donate goods which are sold at way under the market rate, and other companies donate traditional sweets and Christmas decorations, calendars and cards which would otherwise be impossible to find. We bought a Bodum tea pot in anticipation of Ellie’s and then Suzy’s visit next year, and a Bodum bread knife. I also bought a tin of those Danish Butter Biscuits for Matt and Marc. I hadn’t realised that Bodum is a Danish company and was very pleased with my purchases. Unlike last weekend’s fair, the gløgg (hot wine) was alcoholic and very good it was too. It’s much less sweet than the mulled wine I’ve had in the UK, and Suzy told me that this is the kind of hot wine served in Finland too, so we’re assuming it’s a pan-Scandinavian thing.
This Christmas tree is in Fulton Market, which used to be a fish market and is very near to our apartment block. The fish market used to be open 24 hours a day and, towards the end of the 19th century, people went there to eat oysters after an evening out giving rise to the statement that New York is the city that never sleeps. This area was very badly damaged during Sandy and the recovery is slow. The tree is next to a small skating rink but whilst I like to support local businesses, I won’t be going on the rink. I was useless at skating before the hip replacements and there’s no reason to think that that will have changed!
So today’s recipe is courtesy of Anne and is Gløgg. This will serve 10-15 people.
Gløgg – Ingredients
- 5 sticks cinnamon
- 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, cut in thin slices
- 20 whole cloves
- 25 cardamom pods
- 2 tsp dried coriander
- 30 peppercorns
- 2 cups water
- 1 1/2 lbs raisins
- 2 1/2 cups rum
- 1 bottle port
- 3 bottles red wine (no need to spend a fortune on it but it should be on the fuller side)
- 1 lemon
- 1 orange
- 1/2 to 1 lb of almond splinters
- 2 cups of vodka
- Sugar to taste
One week before the party, create an extract by combining the cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom pods, coriander, peppercorns and water. Bring to the boil, then let it cool down and sit covered for 4 to 5 days.
Mix the rum and port together in another container, add the raisins and soak for 5 days. (Note: don’t use aluminum containers for storing this.)
Day of the party, strain the extract through a sieve and put it in a large pot along with the zest of one orange and the zest of one lemon. Simmer for 2 minutes.
Pour in the three bottles of red wine and heat it without boiling.
Add the vodka, the raisins with liquid and the almonds. Add sugar to taste (not too sweet but not too sour). Serve hot with spice cookies (I will have to ask Anne for this recipe!).