Christ­mas LARDER

Campbeltown Courier - - FEATURE -

Time was that Scot­land did not cel­e­brate Christ­mas that much - so when it comes to eat­ing and drink­ing we have a lot of catch­ing up to do!

Did you know that Christ­mas day was not classed as a pub­lic hol­i­day un­til 1958?

An Act of the Par­lia­ment of Scot­land back in 1640 made the cel­e­bra­tion of Yule­tide fri­vol­i­ties il­le­gal. This was re­pealed in 1686, but it took the na­tion roughly an­other 400 years to come round to the idea that Christ­mas was a good thing. That’s why we in Scot­land have al­ways made much more of Hog­manay than the English and Welsh ever have over New Year’s Day. Amongst our fes­tive food spe­cial­i­ties are steak pie and black bun for Jan­uary 1, and it seems a shame that these are now start­ing to de­cline a lit­tle in peo­ple’s con­scious­ness - so let’s make an ef­fort to bring them back into the lime­light. When it comes to throw­ing a party or host­ing a feast we are so in­cred­i­bly lucky here in the West High­lands and is­lands that we have some of the finest in­gre­di­ents in our larders. Now, for the sake of this ar­ti­cle, we are look­ing at two larders - the one of pro­duce and ‘dried goods’ and the other a cold larder, what our great-great grand­par­ents used to have be­fore re­frig­er­a­tion.

“And let’s not for­get the cel­lar where all the drinks are stored.”

In the dry goods larder we have a pro­fu­sion of lo­cal mak­ers of jams, jel­lies, chut­neys and pick­les. Not only is every church or char­ity sale full of jars we also have many small busi­nesses mak­ing these prod­ucts and they are thriv­ing And what bet­ter to serve these with than a good, lo­cally made cheese. There are some bril­liant cheese mak­ers here in Ar­gyll. The lush pas­tures of Kin­tyre and the is­lands make for happy cows pro­duc­ing beau­ti­ful, creamy milk. The pedi­gree herds of Kin­tyre are con­sis­tent win­ners at the Royal High­land Show. They are also very happy cows - many are fed on the dis­tillery draff left over from the whisky-mak­ing process. That is be­fore we get on to the fine art of bis­cuit, oat­cake and cake bak­ing. Short­bread is an­other del­i­cacy which is now known glob­ally but has its ori­gins here in Scot­land.

“When it comes to our cold larder, pre­pare to be amazed. The meat and fish reared and har­vested here in the West High­lands are world-class.”

Our fish and shell­fish farms and fish­er­men do not just sup­ply the lo­cal mar­ket; their pro­duce is in de­mand across the world and con­sis­tently wins ma­jor food awards. Scot­tish smoked salmon is con­sid­ered a world leader and our smoke­houses also pro­duce an in­cred­i­ble num­ber of smoked cheeses and meats. Lamb from the West High­lands is a na­ture in­tended; the sheep are left on the hill and have a nat­u­ral diet. So is the beef and you can taste the dif­fer­ence. There are plenty of wild deer here in Ar­gyll and the veni­son sup­pli­ers across the West High­lands have some of the choic­est meat, joints and cuts plus sausages, burg­ers and pies on of­fer.

“When it comes to the cel­lar - well what can you say? Ar­gyll can boast of two unique malt whisky re­gions - Camp­bel­town and Is­lay.”

Is­lay and Camp­bel­town pro­duce some of the most-cov­eted malts in Scot­land. Every year thou­sands of tourists from all over the world beat a path to visit the homes of their favourite malts - and we have them on our doorsteps to en­joy. Scot­land is syn­ony­mous with cel­e­brat­ing the chang­ing of the year and see­ing in the New Year without a dram is near un­think­able. One re­mark­able thing that has hap­pened here in the West High­lands and is­lands over the last two decades is the re­birth of lo­cal brew­eries and the re­vival in the for­tunes of gin. When it comes to brew­ing we have an im­pres­sive port­fo­lio of beers to en­joy, all made at mi­cro brew­eries through­out the re­gion. These orig­i­nally sprung up in protest at the mass-pro­duced beers and lagers which dom­i­nated the in­dus­try and these days some of these brew­eries are not so mi­cro - as they beers and lagers gain in pop­u­lar­ity and es­teem. Gin has be­come fash­ion­able once again - amaz­ingly so. Never for­get that Scot­land, and the west coast in par­tic­u­lar, is a his­toric cen­tre for the pro­duc­tion of gin. To­day it seems that every vil­lage and is­land has its own brand of gin. So many gins . . . . . and so lit­tle time.

“So en­joy the con­tents of your larders this Christ­mas, take time to stock them up and take pride in the lo­cal pro­duce therein.”

And also be very proud that Christ­mas and New Year cel­e­bra­tions and feast­ing around the world in­cludes prod­ucts from our coun­try - short­bread, smoked salmon and whisky.

“Ooh, and we for­get to men­tion mar­malade that’s ours as well!”

And re­mem­ber these vi­tal points if you are the cook this year and are feel­ing pres­sured . . . . if it isn’t a white Christ­mas, just drink the red or rose in­stead and did you know that stressed is desserts spelled back­wards, so tuck in!

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