Miss Scarlett's guide to Suffolk living
Miss Scarlett (aka Sandy Ruddock) is a mother, step-mother, godmother, aunt, daughter, sibling, daughter-in-law, friend, boss and entrepreneur
MISS SCARLETT IN THE KITCHEN WITH THE MINCE PIES
What’s Mrs Beeton got to say about Christmas? Her food-writing helped to revolutionise the way the Victorians prepared for Christmas, and not just in a gastronomic way. Until the reign of Queen Victoria, Christmas was not a glittering affair. Victoria’s husband, Albert, made our British Christmas sparkle with the introduction of German traditions, such as a decorated tree, the like of which we now all take for granted. But it was Mrs Beeton who stirred it all up and helped bring the ingredients to the Christmas we now recognise today. When we beat ourselves up over the prep of a festive feast, it’s Mrs Beeton we can blame. Bread sauce, like or lump it, is all down to her, along with planning, preparation and pigs in blankets. All I can say is, thanks a bunch!
THAT’S A LOTTA PIES . . .
I’d always thought that mince pies were a very British tradition but apparently they originated in the Middle East in the 13th century. Our versions used to be known as Mutton Pie, Shrid Pie (yes really) or even Christmas Pie and were first filled with meat, very often lamb, and made to give to festive visitors. The meat would have been minced and in medieval times mixed with fruit, cinnamon and nutmeg. The Tudors loved them and apparently they were a culinary savoury favourite of Henry VIII (I think he might have eaten rather too many). It was the sweet-toothed Victorians that helped the mince pie on its way to the sweeter version we love to guzzle today. Mrs Beeton gives us a number of different mince pie recipes – fortunately only one is meat filled – and the sweeter much loved pie has become a staple in most homes over Christmas, In Britain we gluttons consume an unbelievable 370 million each year.
It’s crucial that you stir clockwise when making mince pies otherwise you will have a hundred years’ bad luck which frankly
would be very dull. For those of us who are superstitious, don’t worry, I have the perfect antidote for mistaken anti-clockwise stirring. One mince pie every day for the 12 days of Christmas will bring you good luck, although you may end up looking like Henry VIII.
HAVING A WONDERFUL TIME
Christmas in Suffolk is a very special time. As a county, we celebrate it well. There are numerous Christmas fairs, concerts, workshops and lots of opportunities to taste delicious delicacies from around the region. There’s something for everyone throughout the month. Those with little ones shouldn’t miss the arrival of Father Christmas by barge at Snape Maltings on Saturday, December 16, at 12.30pm. There is always a huge number of wonderful carol services taking place – one year a friend of mine attended nine. She must have been very bad that year. That’s quite a marathon and maybe one is enough. My favourite would be the Christmas Eve service at St Michael’s in Framlingham.
What about a festive dip? Felixstowe and Southwold are infamous for their bracing swims on Christmas Day. If anyone suggests I go for a Christmas swim, I might not be able to find my swimming costume but I’ll offer to stay at home and keep the mince pies warm!