It’s nearly 10 years since we hosted our first course, and as a gardening business, we naturally expected May to September to be our busiest months of the year – oh, how wrong we were.
Christmas courses sell out as early as March, with a fight for places on Hannah Price’s Christmas Wreath Making workshop.
Our seasonal courses are all about getting a head start with Christmas, way before the panic shopping commences. We’ll have it all wrapped up (literally) by 12 December.
OUR ‘FRAZZLE-FREE’ CHRISTMAS CALENDAR >>
Make the most of the plethora of ‘cheap as chips’ small spring bulbs being sold off now: muscari, crocus, hyacinths and dwarf narcissi. Small teacups filled with crocuses, cut glass vases bulging with hyacinths sitting atop dark pebbles – or even simple enamel bowls crammed with scented narcissi – all look fantastic filled with bulb fibre and only the little noses of emerging bulbs poking out of the soil.
Surround them with florist’s moss; much like a new winter coat, it makes everything look better. Dampen the soil initially and then water again once the bulbs are growing, but only if the soil feels dry – please don’t drown the poor things. Place the pots/cups/glasses in a closed cupboard in a cool shed or garage until the bulbs have rooted. Once shoots appear, they can be handed on as gifts, wrapped in pretty cellophane and tied with ribbon.
22 November: Stress-free Xmas
A day spent baking, preserving and freezing gets the larder and freezer stocked up for the festive period. You can be ‘the host/hostess with the mostest’ without the stress as you pull desserts out the freezer and serve melt-in-the-mouth mince pies made by your own fair hands.
24 November: Stir up Sunday
There is nothing quite like the aroma of soaking dried fruit in alcohol. The scents make the house feel so festive, giving you that warm fuzzy feeling as soon as you step through the door.
FAIL-SAFE RECIPES TO SEE YOU THROUGH THE SEASON >>
Cranberry, pistachio and white chocolate stars These can be made ahead of time and frozen – perfect for when those unexpected guests pop by!
100g caster sugar
100g dried cranberries
240g butter at room temperature
240g plain flour
1 tbsp vanilla extract
85g white chocolate, cut into small chunks 50g shelled pistachios, crushed in a bag with a rolling pin
Place the cranberries and sugar in a food processor and pulse briefly. Using a mixer with a paddle attachment or a hand whisk, cream the butter and sugar/cranberry mixture together until light and fluffy.
Add vanilla, flour, chocolate chunks and crushed pistachio pieces and bring together using the back of a wooden spoon to form a dough. Do not overwork or your shortbread will be tough.
Either roll the dough into a long log at this stage and wrap in a double layer of cling film and freeze unbaked, or roll the dough to 3/4cm and use a star cutter to cut out stars. Place well apart on a flat baking tray and bake at 150°C for 25-30 minutes depending on the size of your stars.
Allow to cool for 15 minutes on the tray before removing to a rack to crisp up. Either store in a tin for up to three weeks or freeze in tupperware containers.
OLD FASHIONED – THE PERFECT WINTER WARMER >>
This tried and tested recipe comes from a lovely customer, Daniel Scrivener from Brighton, who refers to me as his ‘marmalade dealer’!
Use a whisky tumbler and pour a generous double measure of bourbon (Maker’s Mark seems to work well). Add 2-3 dashes of Angostura bitters, then 2-3 teaspoons of Linnels Farm Ardbeg Marmalade (depending how sweet you like it). Add one decent-sized ice cube.
Stir vigorously until the ice has fully melted. Add a strip of orange rind and 2-3 more ice-cubes. Stir gently, let it chill for a minute, then serve.
RICH PICKINGS FROM THE GARDEN >>
Pickings are few and far between at this time of year, but somehow that makes them all the more valued.
Dusky sloes after a night-time frost can be popped in a bottle of cheap gin with some sugar and placed in a dark cupboard.
Remember to shake it every week and it will be ready to drink for Christmas.
Always make an extra jar – you can give it away in small bottles when you unexpectedly need that extra present. Late variety apples such as Ashmead’s Kernel and Catshead can still be sitting on the tree until December – perfect for a warming winter crumble dripping with custard, or mixed with homemade mincemeat and baked in a filo roulade for a lighter end to Christmas dinner.
JOBS IN THE GARDEN >>
All serious gardeners relish this time of year for snuggling up with seed and plant catalogues, taking some well-deserved downtime and dreaming of the spring to come with endless wish lists of what to sow/plant/harvest/bloom in the garden in 2020.
UPCOMING COURSES @LINNELS FARM
FESTIVE CANDLE MAKING WITH BERNICIA CANDLES >> WED 13 NOVEMBER
Caroline will guide you through an informative practical course on hand- pouring soy wax candles and beeswax melts. You will leave with expert knowledge and the opportunity to choose different fragrances and containers to produce and take away your products.
MAKE THIS A STRESS-FREE CHRISTMAS! >> FRI 22 NOVEMBER
On this course you’ll get a head start on Christmas. Think boozy mincemeat, melt-in-the-mouth mince pies and a sneaky selection of canapés and deserts ready to whip out for those impromptu drinks parties. We’ll touch on those old chestnuts… what to do with leftovers and how to woo your veggie guests with something other than risotto.
FESTIVE FELTING WITH SANDY >> THURS 28 NOVEMBER
Come along and learn the traditional craft of needle felting and create your very own festive ornament. It really is a fascinating craft to learn and you’ll depart with the skills to continue felting at home.
FESTIVE BREADS >> TUES 10 DECEMBER
Join us for a day of festive bakes with no Christmas cake in sight! Expect mouthwatering Danish Christmas kringle, Finnish sugar cookies that will last for weeks in
a tin, and other unheard of delights to make this winter.
XMAS ALL WRAPPED UP >> THURS 12 DECEMBER
Take the stress out of Christmas with this half-day workshop focusing on gift wrapping techniques. Depart with the ability to wrap awkwardly shaped presents with style, make budget gifts look a million dollars and add some personality to special presents.
For further details visit: linnelsfarm.com