A month ago I did a promotion called Christmas in July – Cancun Style and my friend Daisy Banks from England joined me with her book Christmas Carols. Today I’m Ranting and Raving about her newest book. Take it away Daisy.
Thank you, KaLyn, for your kind offer to help me celebrate the release of my new book Christmas Carols, published by Liquid Silver Books on the 10th of August.
I know readers might think it a little odd to be thinking about Christmas in August but in Victorian England, where my story is set, people were used to starting their Christmas preparations early. My grandmother knew about the preparations made below stairs in a big house to make sure Christmas ran smoothly for the family and the servants. This involved the kitchen staff making and storing the sauces and pickles used to add flavour, spice and interest to Christmas celebration meals both up stairs and below.
One of the Christmas favorites which could be made in late summer and matured ready for Christmas is Elderberry Chutney. This is a recipe you could try if you wished and will be mature in time for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.
This recipe makes about one and a half pounds of chutney.
2 pints of elderberries
4oz of seedless raisins
4 oz of demerara sugar
2 oz of onions
Half an ounce of salt.
Pinch of Cayenne pepper
Pinch of All spice
1 pint of cider vinegar or good malt vinegar.
Wash and pick over the elderberries.
Put all the ingredients in a large saucepan and stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved.
Cook until all the ingredients are soft, stirring from time to time. Continue cooking until the consistency is thick. You can tell it’s ready when you draw the spoon across and the mark doesn’t immediately fill with liquid.
Meanwhile chose small jars with vinegar-proof lids. Jars with plastic lids work best. Don’t use paper lids because the vinegar can evaporate through them and the chutney will dry out. Don’t use metal lids because the vinegar corrodes the metal.
Put your washed jars in a cool oven to dry and warm.
Fill the warmed jars nearly to the brim with hot chutney and put the lids on at once.
Label and date jars and store in a cool dark place until you wish to use. This recipe will last a long time if correctly covered.
Pickles feature in Christmas Carols as part of an impromptu meal shared by Alice and Stephen at the end of a snowy walk.
Alice readied a willow pattern serving plate with several thick slices of fresh bread and butter, cut the pork pie into bite size sections, some rather larger than others, those would be his. As an accompaniment she ladled out a bowl of pickles and put the lot on a tray with some small plates and cutlery.
The kettle sang, and she made tea in her best teapot, got down her best cups and saucers, milk jug and sugar bowl. A tea tray ready too, she took it into the parlor. “Here we are. Tea, and I’ll go and get our meal once I’ve poured you a cup. Will Blue want anything?” she said as she poured tea for Stephen.
“A bowl of water will see him through until we get home.”
“Of course, I’ll bring some for him.” She took the tea over. “Here, I hope this warms you up. There is a small table by the side of the armchair. If you feel down to your left, you’ll find it. You can put your cup there if you wish.”
“Oh, I’ve thawed out now, and thank you.”
“Good. I’ll just fetch the food and some water for Blue.” She went back to the kitchen, found a low-sided basin for the dog and filled it with water. With that and the tray with their hasty made meal, she went back to the sitting room.
“Alice, is it all right for Blue to be in here? I don’t want him getting used to your finest rug.”
She set the tray down. “It’s quite acceptable for Blue to be in the parlor. I’d not make him sit in the hallway in the draughts. I’ll put his water down here.”
“Thank you. Blue, water.”
The dog opened a lazy eye. He looked comfortable enough by the hearth.
“Perhaps he’ll want some later.” She poured a cup of tea and sat on the straight-backed sofa opposite the hearth. She picked up her cup and sipped the hot liquid. “What a relief to be home.”
“Indeed. You have a comfortable house here.”
“Yes, thank you. Please, tell me when you’ve finished your tea. I can pour more or we can eat, everything is ready.”
“You are a very kind and attentive hostess.” A smile rose as he lifted his cup.
He had smiled so often since she sang in the church and his smile had her hanging onto his words. When he smiled, Mr. Stephen Grafton had to be the most attractive man she’d known since…
The thought leaped up and brought a wave of heat to her cheeks and a wedge of guilt to her chest. She had no right to think of Stephen in such a way. He was a kind and brave man who had made her realize how foolish it was to sit at home all her days. There could be nothing more for her than his consideration and friendship, surely.
Stephen Grafton, the blind organist at Holy Trinity Church, is gaining a reputation for his fine playing and compositions. Alice Broadbrace’s initial venture back into society after years in deep mourning brings her to the notice of the talented organist, and he offers her the opportunity to sing a solo carol to his accompaniment. His courage convinces her to find her own, while her charm entices him into thoughts of romance. A difficult walk in a snow storm is only the beginning of Stephen and Alice’s journey to happiness. Enjoy this sweet Victorian tale of talent and love blossoming.
Thanks for reading
Find Daisy Banks here:
Liquid Silver Books http://www.lsbooks.com/christmas-carols-p1041.php
Daisy Banks is the author of:
Marked for Magic
A Perfect Match
A Gentleman’s Folly
Your Heart My Soul
A Matter of Some Scandal
Daisy’s books are available here:
Daisy Banks writes a regular monthly story in the Sexy to Go compilations.