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Preparing for Christmas

Last week I made some candied peel in preparation for plum pudding and mincemeat. After boiling the citrus peel in sugar water for over an hour, I spooned it out to dry and was left with a sweet-tart syrup. Just the right thing to go in the Christmas beer.

Yes, Christmas beer! Last year I made dozens of mince pies - homemade mincemeat in shortbread crusts - some of which Spouse brought around to the neighbors. It was his way of introducing ourselves (well, himself. I shyly stayed home) and sharing a bit of British Culture. This year I suggested that in addition to mince pies we give a bottle of homebrew, hence the Christmas beer.

I've only recently gotten back into home brewing, thanks to Northern Brewer's one gallon kits. They make just enough for a one-beer-drinker household. For a holiday brew though, I needed to not only make more, but to work without a net kit. I had previously bought some crushed grains at Homebrew Emporium with the plan of making custom one gallon batches, but though I'd just go all in and do a big three gallon one right off. I looked around for recipes, settling on this one as a basis for mine. Then I ordered malt syrup (because I wasn't going to try all-grain after so long an absence of brewing) in nice big jugs (the better to portion you with, my dear), hops and yeast. Yes, I didn't go to the local shop, mainly because I wanted to be sure of those specific hops and yeast, and because the MBTA has had diversions every weekend and I didn't want to go out.1

So now the beer is bubbling nicely and it's time to think about plum pudding. I went the lazy route and decided to use whatever dried fruit was in the pantry. That meant a few apricots, some apple and raisins. I really don't like raisins so I chopped he hell out of them and hoped the booze would mask the raisininess. With all the lovely sweet and spicy and boozy flavours mingling, I think the raisins will be well hidden.





Candied Peel

Sliced peel of:
2 oranges
2 lemons
2 cups ginger wine or water
2 1/2 cups sugar
Boil for one hour. Drain, reserving liquid. Store peel in refrigerator until needed

Christmas Beer

3.5 gallons water
9 oz black patent malt
9 oz Cara Aroma
5 handfulls whole oats
2 whole nutmegs, quartered,
1 vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise
liquid from candied peel
6 lbs light malt syrup
1 oz Glacier hop pellets
1 oz Willamet hop pellets
Edinburgh ale yeast
Pour water into large pot. Place grains in a mesh bag and submerge in pot of water. Add 1 nutmeg and the vanilla pod. Bring water up to 150 degrees farenheit and hold there for 20 minutes. Remove grain bag and squeeze out. Sparge if you're so inclined.
Add malt syrup and liquid from candied peel to water and bring to the boil. Once boiling, add the Glacier hops. After 45 minutes, add the Willamet hops. After 5 minutes, remove from heat and put the pot in an ice bath to cool. Once room temp, strain into carboy and add the yeast, second nutmeg and he vanilla pod from the boil (of it looks striped of all vanilla goodness, get half a fresh bean). Set down to ferment for a week.
Place into secondary fermenter for a second week or bottle with priming sugar. Age for at least four weeks.

Plum pudding

1/2 cup each raisins, dried apricots, dried apples, chopped
1/2 cup random booze  -  wine, bourbon, rum, absinth was the combination I had at hand
1 medium apple, grated
3 small carrots, grated
1/4 cup candied peel, chopped
1.5 cups bread crumbs - I used homemade Anadama bread for this
1 cup coconut oil
1 heaping teaspoon mixed spice - nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, mace, clove, allspice
1 cup Whole wheat flour
1 cup Christmas beer (snuck from the carboy)

Soak dried fruit overnight in random booze.
Add everything but the beer and mix until it all seems to be fairly uniformly spread about the bowl.
Add the beer, stirring, until well mixed. Place in greased pudding basin, cover with foil or parchment and tie tight. Steam 4 hours. Cool. If in a metal container, as my pudding mold is, remove and wrap in plastic wrap and foil. Sprinkle on rum, bourbon, or whiskey every couple of weeks, wrapping it up tightly again after. Store in a cool place until Christmas.

1 Plus then I got to order a soda kit for Spouse's birthday


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