Gingerbread Rescue & Recovery

Not quite as accomplished as last year’s efforts, perhaps, but there is a whole lot more dramatic effect involved when the gingerbread tree house collapses …

P1170558 (2)

and the building material is transformed into a Forest Hideaway (“Waldversteck“):

And the village on the hill survived intact…

Same rules every year: it stays standing – no touching and no nibbling – until Christmas Day when it is then free to be plundered…

P1170554P1170547P1170562 (2)


Christmas Mince Pies, Orchard Style

A widely-circulated “organic” food magazine here in Germany is currently featuring a recipe for “Mini Nut Pies”, described as an “English speciality”, with a list of ingredients based on dried apricots and “nut mix”… oh dear, oh dear… not what the English would recognise as their Christmas mince pies!

In the interests of improved culinary integration, here come my orchard-style Christmas mince pies…

Meadow Orchard Christmas Mincemeat


encased in almond pastry – these are alcohol-free (no brandy) and vegetarian (no suet) but still very close to the original “English speciality”:

10418394_10204265921821260_8817699170069391702_n Mince Pies

Image courtesy of

Almond Pastry

Plain flour                                                 225g

pinch of salt

Butter                                                        110g

Ground almonds, blanched                140g

Sugar                                                          45g

Beaten egg

  1. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the ground almonds.
  2. Stir in the sugar and add enough beaten egg (probably one whole egg) to just bind the mixture together. Knead lightly. Chill before use then roll out, cut out rounds, fill them with Meadow Orchard Christmas Mincemeat and bake at 200°C until golden brown


It starts with a wreath :

Typically featuring four candles representing the four seasons enjoyed during the course of the year, the candles on the Advent wreath are lit one at a time on each of the four Sundays preceding the “Wend”, the Winter Solstice, now ‘Christianised’ as Christmas Eve (in Germany) or Christmas Day (in the Anglo Saxon realm).

And the first week of Advent is going to be about:

Mulling Syrup, Meadow Orchard Christmas Mincemeat and The BEST Gingerbread Biscuits

for Advent in Germany is about “Plätzchen”, the bright side of the dark time of the year!

Plätzchen with copyright

Quince Chutney

P1170254 (3)

Golden, garlicky and quintessentially delicious!

Quince Chutney

Prep. Time: about 15 minutes

Cooking time: about 90 minutes plus overnight infusing

Makes about 3 x 400 g jars

Ripe quinces                                                                    1 kg

Sugar                                                                             300 g

Onions                                                                            4

Garlic                                                                             1 bulb

Fresh ginger                                                                    1 piece about 3 cm long

Bay leaves                                                                      5

Cinnamon stick                                                                 1

Red wine                                                                         150 ml

Apple cider vinegar                                                           150 ml

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

  1. Peel the quinces, cut into quarters, remove the cores and then finely dice – or grate (dicing will give you chunky chutney, grating will give you mushy chutney).
  2. Place the diced/grated quinces in a large bowl together with the sugar, mix together well, cover and leave overnight. The sugar will draw the liquid out of the fruit, negating the need to add water for cooking and giving you a more intense flavour.
  3. The next day, finely chop the onions and sauté them slowly in the preserving pan until they start to caramelise (at least half an hour). Peel all of the garlic cloves from the bulb, crush them and stir into the caramelising onions. Peel the ginger and chop finely; stir into the onions and garlic.
  4. Add the sugary diced quinces and their juice to the pan together with the bay leaves, cinnamon stick, red wine and the vinegar. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for about 30 minutes, covered, until the quince pieces have softened.
  5. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Turn up the heat and boil rapidly, uncovered, for about another 30 minutes until the liquid has reduced and the chutney has turn a translucent golden red. Keep checking to make sure it does not stick to the base of the pan and burn.
  6. Pour into sterilised jars and seal, leaving to mature for at least a month before using.

Brilliant on a festive season cheeseboard!

P1150684 (2)

Midsummer = Walnut Liqueur

It is time:

Midsummer, the Feast of St John, the summer solstice,

call it what you will, it is time to make walnut liqueur…

Green walnuts with copyright P1160383 (2)P1130563 (3)

Of the many recipes for walnut liqueur, this one leans on the Croation version, known as Orahovac.

… and you will thank me for this come Christmas!


Images of the finished product courtesy of

Walnut Liqueur, Croatian-Style

Green walnuts, unblemished                    12 to 15

Neutrally-flavoured alcohol

such as vodka or a neutral grappa            700 ml

Raw brown sugar                                           250 g

Vanilla pods                                                      2

  1. Sterilise a large preserving jar by filling it with boiling water and leaving to stand for at least 5 minutes before emptying and leaving to cool somewhat.
  2. Rinse the walnuts and then cut in half (or into quarters if they are large).
  3. Place the walnuts in the preserving jar together with the sugar.
  4. Slice open the vanilla pods with a sharp knife, scrape out the seeds and place these and the pods in the jar with the walnuts.
  5. Pour in the alcohol and seal the jar. Give it a good shake and then place in a bright, warm place (e.g. a sunny windowsill) for at least 6 to 8 weeks. The liquid will turn an intense coffee-like brown in this time – give the jar a shake every now and again to make sure the sugar dissolves completely.
  6. After a minimum of 6 to 8 weeks – longer will do no harm either – filter the liqueur through a coffee filter and bottle in clean, sterilised bottles.

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

Traditionally marking the end of the yuletide festivities, the Twelfth Day of Christmas is usually seen as the date by which to have cleared up all the Christmas decorations…


 … an even older European tradition, however, keeps the Christmas greenery in place through to “Fasnacht” (carnival) or Imbolc at the beginning of February – winter has in fact only just begun after all and the evergreen symbolism remains relevant for the whole of January at least…

So I have converted my advent wreath into a January wreath:

P1150388 (2)

  • the green is still present but has been dressed up with silvery white: think blank, as yet unwritten, pages
  • the dried apple, quince and orange slices also remain: the citrus groves of southern Europe are in fact part of the same agricultural tradition as the meadow orchards here in southern Germany, and January and February are the only months of the year in which I preserve anything that is not grown on my own doorstep. The citrus fruit from southern Europe is plentiful on this side of the Alps at this time of the year and so, as I slowly get used to the idea of “2015”, I will be sharing some of my citrus favourites with you in the posts to come…
  • and the candles are still burning – the days are still short here in the northern hemisphere…

P1150391 (2)

Christmas in the Orchard … or the Orchard in my Christmas

Cheese Bites with Wild Garlic Mustard Seeds

Garlicky Walnut Dip

Mulled Apple and Quince Punch

 Cheese bites with copyright P1110505

Roast Duck with Cherry Sauce

 Braised Red Cabbage with Plum Sauce

Cheesy Chard with Walnuts

Apple Jelly Glazed Sweet Potatoes

 Sweet_or_Dessert Cherries with copyright Plum Sauce with copyright

P1110192 Apple jelly with copyright

Walnut Liqueur Tiramisu

Meadow Orchard Mince Pies

 P1110179 P1110347

Blackberry Liqueur

Cherry Brandy

Quince Liqueur

Sloe Gin

IMG_3775 Preserved cherries with copyright

Quince liqueur with copyright

Sloe Gin glass with copyright

This is when all that hard work preserving the edible landscape really comes into its own:

Merry Christmas!

Images with copyright Richard Taylor are courtesy of

The Quintessential Quince: Quince Liqueur


This gallery contains 3 photos.

Image courtesy of The last stop before Christmas, the fourth Sunday in Advent, is approaching … We have done the Walnut, the Blackberry, and the Sloe Liqueurs. Now it is time for my most favourite of autumn fruit turned into our fourth … Continue reading

An Edible Landscape: “The Forest Gnome’s Railway”


This gallery contains 11 photos.

Remember that gingerbread recipe from last week? This is what Mini-Kraut and I made with it this last weekend (Hermann the German did also lend a helping hand during the construction phase): “Die Waldwichtelbahn” or “The Forest Gnome’s Railway” We have … Continue reading

The BEST Gingerbread Biscuits!

P1150018 (2)

I have said it before, I am saying it again: after many years of testing and tasting my way through the many versions of German gingerbread I can conclusively say that this is THE BEST gingerbread recipe when it comes to gingerbread-man-gingerbread as we know it in the Anglo-Saxon realm…

It is made with fresh ginger and freshly ground cardamom…

Is it worth the effort? YES!

Prep. Time: about 30 minutes plus overnight resting plus decorating time

Cooking time: about 15 minutes

Makes about 30

Honey                                                                            80g

Treacle                                                                          80g

Brown sugar                                                                   50g

Pinch of salt

Butter                                                                            125g

Fresh ginger                                                                   15g

Cardamom, freshly ground                                               1tsp

Baking powder                                                               ¾tsp

Plain flour                                                                      350g

For the glace icing:

Icing sugar                                                                      120g

Boiling water                                                        about 2 Tbsp

1. Place the honey, treacle, brown sugar, pinch of salt and 4 tablespoons of water together in a saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved and then bring to the boil. Remove from the heat.

2. Slice the butter into cubes and stir into the honey and sugar mixture.

3. Peel the ginger and then either grate it or chop very finely.

4. Grind the cardamom with a pestle and mortar.

5. Stir the ginger, cardamom and baking powder into the honey and sugar mixture and leave to cool.

6. Carefully fold the flour into the cooled honey and sugar mixture until well mixed.

7. Wrap the dough in cling wrap and leave in a cool place overnight.

8. When you are ready to bake your gingerbread biscuits, line your baking tray(s) with baking paper and preheat the oven to 190°C.

9. Roll out the dough (in portions) on a floured surface to a thickness of about 1/4 cm and get going with all your Christmassy cookie cutters.

10. Bake the results tray by tray for about 15 minutes and leave to cool completely before decorating.

11. To decorate, combine the icing sugar with boiling water, mix until smooth, place in a piping bag and decorate your gingerbread biscuits with any manner of dots and dashes! Depending on how thick your pipe the icing it will need a good hour to dry before you can pack the biscuits away.

Decorating alternative: decorate the biscuits with whole almonds (skinned or otherwise) pressed into the dough before baking, and/or use a skewer to pierce a hole in each biscuit to be able to hang them up as decorations after baking… or to finish off your gift wrapping!

P1110706P1110681 (2) P1110710 (2)