Seasonal Food - December 21/January 22
It’s only relatively recently that we have had year-round availability of fresh produce. But more than any other time of year, Christmas is when we love tradition, and these are some of our favourites.
Some love them, others think they are a form of punishment! But Brussel sprouts peak in popularity in December. Part of the problem for the haters is the perception that sprouts are very bitter, but British farmers have modified their crops to ensure most varieties they grow now are sweeter and milder – maybe this year it’s time to give them a second chance.
In medieval times, most pigs were fattened up on acorns and slaughtered at the start of winter, hence sausage and bacon would be a staple in December. ‘Pigs in blankets’ (small sausages wrapped in bacon) may not have come from that time, but their appearance on the Christmas dinner plate would not have been a surprise and they are certainly popular today.
There’s a reason we associate parsnips with Christmas dinner – it’s prime season for them. They can be boiled just as carrots are, being of the same family, but more often they’ll be roasted until the flesh starts to caramelise and served with any roast dinner.
Although you probably won’t be roasting your chestnuts on an open fire, as the song goes, they make a regular appearance at Christmas. They bring a caramelised nutty flavour to sprouts, Christmas puddings, turkey stuffing, desserts and more. Unlike other nuts, chestnuts have a high starch and water content but low protein and fat levels.
Turkey without cranberry sauce? Unheard of! Most people buy the ready-made sauce in jars for their meal, but you could try making your own. Otherwise cranberries can be swapped for raisins, used in bread pudding, or the feature ingredient in sweet baked breads and cakes.
A 2020 survey by Asda put potatoes as the most popular Christmas food, although we are used to eating them all year round. The edges of floury potatoes are the bits that go crispy, so Maris Piper is best but King Edward or Desiree are also excellent. Just don’t go for a waxy potato – that won’t work at all.
Satsumas and Tangerines
Bright citrus fruits bring fresh colour to the table in winter and satsumas and tangerines are at their seasonal peak in early winter, albeit we don’t typically grow them in the UK.