The days under our Covod-19 lockdown seem to just run together. Sometimes, I can’t remember exactly which day of the week it currently is, but yesterday I did notice that it was Saturday, 25 July, the midway date between last Christmas and next Christmas.
We had seen a recipe for mulled wine (spiced wine or Glühwein) in the newspaper a few days ago and decided to try and make some because of all the memories that we have of drinking it while visiting the Christmas markets in Europe. Our wine making evolved into a full-blown ‘Christmas in July’ dinner.
In the Northern hemisphere, where most of our Christmas traditions come from, the season is associated with things like snow, cold, frost and warm fires. Here, Christmas can be very hot. We Australians often celebrate Christmas in July, the coldest month of our year, when we can emulate some of the northern hemisphere climate and atmosphere. We know it as ‘Christmas in July’.
(This was the invitation sent out by the Goat Rock camping ground in Tezas, Queensland)
The origins of Christmas in July in Australia are not clear, however, it is generally believed that the practise started with a group of homesick Irish tourists visiting the New South Wales Blue Mountains in July of 1980. As snow fell outside, it appears that the group managed to convince a local hotel owner to hold a party called ‘Yulefest.’ It was enjoyed so much that the group returned each year with more and more people and so Christmas in July commenced.
Making our mulled wine first involved going to Woolworths and buying a couple of cheap bottles of red wine. Normally, I would’ve thought that $4 bottles of wine would be undrinkable, but after ‘mulling’ they tasted quite reasonable. We used a mixture of spices including orange and lemon juice and zest, Cloves, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Star Anise and Bay Leaves. These were all boiled in a pot with half a litre of water and some brown sugar until it had reduced a little and then we added the wine and heated it for another five or six minutes – just below boiling point so as not to boil off he alcohol. I can’t believe that there would be much alcohol but we didn’t want to take any chances.
Once it was ready, of course, we had to try some and make sure it was OK and then we had a mug of this hot wine as a pre-dinner drink. We even used the mugs that we had kept a souvenirs from the Christmas Market in Vienna.
Probably being affected by the wine that we first tasted, we decided to go all-in and make ourselves a Christmas dinner as our evening meal. This required a couple of innovations as turkey, ham, and plum pudding are just not available at this time of year.
We retrieved a few of our Christmas decorations from the cupboard under the stairs and used them to create something of a Christmas atmosphere.
Jill set the dini.ng room table as we might for a normal Christmas meal using some left over bonbons that we found in the storeroom.
Quite coincidentally, and unbeknown to us, our daughter, Cathy, had visited us in the afternoon bringing a Christmas in July gift of some special vanilla tea and some chocolates from both herself and our two granddaughters. What a nice touch!
I did the cooking but I had to improvise with some ingredients. There are no turkeys in the Australian shops at this time of year (but we wouldn’t have wanted many days of leftover turkey anyway). I did find that Woolworths sold some slices of turkey breast that we are able to cook in a pan along with some slices of ham that came from a tin that we have had for some time in case of a lockdown emergency. Along with chicken gravy, roast vegetables and some steamed beans we ended up with quite a respectable meal.
Christmas pudding required a bit more innovation. The closest thing to a traditional plum pudding that I could find was a sticky date pudding but this finished off the meal nicely with custard and cream.
We thought that this meal was good enough to get dressed up for, so before eating we put on some nice clothes and sat down to enjoy a memorable meal. It just goes to show that with a bit of initiative and innovation it’s possible to do something fun and different in the middle of this dreary time. Maybe, one day, we will be able to go out and eat again.