Forests, moors & hot quince rum...

Welcome back and a very happy new year to all of you. I hope you've all had a magical Christmas with friends and/or family, got some rest, had too much food and celebrated the new year in style - my "style" consisted of a warm blanket, a family size box of tissues and copious amounts of hot lemon with ginger and honey. Yes, I spent New Year's Eve on the sofa with a hideous cold. Strangely enough, I didn't mind too much. Well, the sofa bit I didn't mind, the cold was pretty hideous and I regret having not been able to write one last "2016 recap" post before the end of the year as I had originally planned. But I'm not going to dwell on that now. Instead I've decided to share some happy memories of our Christmas break with you.

After I had come back from Munich I had one day to unpack, do some laundry, repack and get organised to travel up to North Yorkshire for our Christmas break. We had once again decided to leave the city behind and spend those festive days in the quiet surroundings that make us so happy and relaxed. Admittedly, Christmas is rarely completely stress-free and with Monsieur having been put on the "six food elimination diet" (no dairy, eggs, nuts, fish, soy, or gluten) by his doctor (since test after test, exam after exam has failed to reveal what exactly is wrong with him), I had my work cut out to come up with dishes he would be able to eat. Christmas dinner in itself wasn't much of a problem with goose and vegetables being perfectly suited to his needs. Dessert gave me a bit more of a headache though. In the end, I came up with a suitable take on a trifle: vegan and gluten-free sponge soaked in brandy, topped with a mulled wine jelly with poached pear cubes and finished off with a coconut milk cream. It went down a treat and I breathed a sigh of relief... 

We then spent our days in the most uneventful way: out in nature during the day, in front of the open fire and watching movies in the evenings. No drama, no watching the news in horror, being happily ignorant for just a while and shutting the wider world out. Whilst Christmas day had been grey and rainy, the other days were crisp, cold and dry which made it perfect for wrapping up warm and enjoying the fresh air. And enjoy it I did. The landscapes still take my breath away every time I visit and make me smile and marvel at nature. From forests to wide open moors, there's a beauty in these rough landscapes that makes me take a deep breath, stare into the distance and forget worries and anxieties that seem to so often plague me... 

Of course no winter walk would be complete without something to warm us up (if the walk itself hasn't done the trick) on the way and I had just the thing: back in Autumn I had prepared a quince rum spiced with cinnamon. Now, this needed to rest for two months before I could use it, but I knew (or at the very least I hoped) that it would be the perfect addition to some hot apple juice on a frosty day. Armed with a small stove, pot, cups and some gingerbread, we set everything up on the blustery and cold moors. It's a bit like mulled wine: whilst it's certainly nice to have a cup at home, in reality, nothing is better than standing freezing on a Christmas market clutching a mug of the hot stuff to warm you up. We even shared some of the hot apple/quince rum with some walkers that happened to pass by and they loved it. 

So, how did I come to make quince rum? Well, Monsieur's mother has a big quince tree in her garden and gave me so many of the fruits that I wanted to use them in as many different ways as possible. I started off by making some membrillo, then I made jam and some rose and quince jelly. I still had some left after that, so figured (since I had a bottle of unopened rum just sitting there) that hot quince rum might just be really nice on a cold day. Admittedly, I was going for the "happy go lucky" approach here without much of a clue or strict recipe, but I just had a feeling that the heavily fragrant fruit would work really well with hot apple juice. So, here's the "recipe" (in the loosest sense of the word) for my quince rum. I know that quince season is over, but if you have some left this might still be an option since winter is no doubt here to stay for a while... 

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 - 2 large quinces 
  • 1 bottle (750ml) white rum
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 large preserving jar

How it's done:

  • wash the quinces and gently rub off the "fluffy" bits off the skin
  • don't peel!
  • use the large side of a grater to grate the quinces into a bowl
  • transfer the grated quinces to a large preserving jar
  • add the cinnamon sticks
  • top with the rum
  • now just turn the jar a few times for the rum and quince to completely mix
  • leave the jar in a dark place for two months, turning it every couple of days
  • after that time strain the liquid through a fine sieve
  • pour through a funnel into a bottle and you're ready to go
  • heat up the apple juice and combine 1 part quince rum to 3 parts apple juice
  • add a cinnamon stick for stirring 
  • enjoy on a frosty day