I’m the bah humbug sort of person when it comes to Christmas. I get annoyed if it is even mentioned before the 1st December and even when the day itself arrives, I usually find it a huge anti-climax and would rather be out walking the dogs. There is a family myth, that my grandmother one year spent Christmas Eve going round on the underground in Hamburg where she lived, to avoid being invited anywhere for Christmas! Maybe that’s where I get it from.
So you can imagine how I felt when on the 25th October, walking through my town, I saw that they had already put up the Christmas lights. They haven’t turned them on yet (as far as I know, I haven’t been out at night recently) but just seeing them up already has upset me.
I am reading more and more tweets from fellow bloggers about things they are preparing for Christmas and magazines are already making their suggestions about what we should be buying each other (if I’m lucky I get a painting which six months later I will most likely see being taken off the wall to show to an interested buyer….”Its got Happy Christmas to me written on the back,” I hiss quietly under my breath….”Oh that’s OK it will come off with a bit of sandpaper,” The Artist replies cheerily).
So I can either stick my fingers in my ears and hum loudly during the next two months leading up to Christmas, or give in and join the chorus. Co-incidentally I was sent a sample of glacé cherries from the French Board of Glacé Cherries, and so I decided to join in. I love seeing the cherry trees in bloom in Spring and know that a lot of fruit trees are being chopped down here in Provence as it is apparently not financially viable to grow fruit anymore and so I thought I would do my thing to help try and promote them.
Glacé cherries have always been for me something you use once a year in a Christmas cake and then put in a drawer until the next year. Oh and in my teens, many years ago, they could be seen atop a rather suspect drink called a Snowball, made with Advacat and lemonade also drunk around Christmas time.
But glacé cherries are not just for Christmas! In Provence there is a long tradition of glacé or candied fruit making and one of the oldest recipes goes back to Nostradamus himself, who grew up in St Remy and was fascinated with the chemical riddle of how to preserve the fruit he saw growing around him. It is a a very skilled and long process that replaces the fruit’s natural water with sugar and glucose by means of osmosis. Much of it is done by hand in the traditional way and the French Glacé Cherry Board is keen to safeguard both the growers and the manufacturers of these cherries.
They have kindly offered to give away 3 boxes of Glacé Cherries, along with a USB of recipes and information on cherry growing in Provence. To enter the giveaway you need to leave a comment below with a suggestion or recipe for glacé cherries and also ‘like’ my facebook page for regular posts and updates. I will pick 3 winners on the 10th November.
Meanwhile I have made Cantucci biscuits with glacé cherries and almonds. I adapted the recipe from Anna del Conte, Gastronomy of Italy, but it is so far removed from her’s that even she would barely recognise it; in fact she might rather I hadn’t mentioned her at all!
Almond and Glacé Cherry Cantucci
- 100g almonds in their skin
- 50g ground almonds
- 100g glacé cherries
- 250g plain flour
- 125g caster sugar
- a generous 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 2 large (extra-large) free-range eggs
- unsalted butter for the tray
Heat the oven to 200℃/400℉ Gas mark 6. When it is hot put the almonds onto a tray and lightly toast for 5 minutes and remove from oven and let cool and do not turn down the oven.
Sieve the flour, sugar, ground almonds and baking powder into a large bowl. Mix and make a well in the middle. Lightly whisk the eggs and pour into the well. Gradually mix the dry ingredients with the egg, adding the nuts and the cherries when everything is well mixed. You should have a stiff dough. I used my hands for this at the end. Then flour your hands and divide the dough into two 12′ or 30 cms long sausages and place on a buttered and floured tin and bake in the oven for 15 – 18 mins.
Take out of the oven and lower the heat to 150℃/300℉/Gas Mark 2, or a little less. Let the Cantucci sausages cool for 10 minutes and then cut them diagonally into 1cm 1/2″ slices.
Lay the slices side by side onto the tray and return to the cooled oven for a further 45 mins or until golden round the edges. The longer they bake the harder they’ll become, so check on them after 30mins.
Put them on a wire tray to cool completely and then put into a glass jar. They will keep for 2 – 3 months.
OK if you insist, yes they would make a lovely Christmas present and if you threw in a bottle of sloe gin, you might find yourself the most popular person on Christmas day!
For more information and recipes you can email Pauline Gauthier at firstname.lastname@example.org
Links and related posts:
Christmas Biscotti Eyes Bigger Than My Stomach