The Month Of December
by Michelle Brett
With fairy lights and the festive season upon us, Michelle Brett brings us all the best that December has to offer
The first of December heralds the start of meteorological winter, and the 21st, the shortest day – often regarded as the first day of winter – although the temperature drop that we had in late November certainly made it feel that winter was knocking on the door earlier than that! The word December came from the Latin word decem (meaning ten) as it was originally the tenth month of the year (the winter days following December were not included as any part of a month – it was only much later that January and February were created out of this monthless period).
In the Kitchen
The ‘glut of the month’ for December, is the Brussel sprout! They’re at their sweetest and most flavourful (yes, really!) after a frost. Harvest from the bottom of the stalk upwards. Why not make a winter coleslaw by mixing shredded sprouts with apple, grated carrot, toasted walnuts and mayonnaise. Or for the leftovers, cooked sprouts are wonderful when fried with crispy bacon and sage, or as part of a bubble and squeak.
Stilton is considered a Christmas cheese, and with the shortened maturing time it changes in character through the year, with the Christmas batch now being sweeter – ideal with a glass of port! Like lots of products, ‘Stilton’ has a protected status and can only be made in three counties: none of which are Stilton in Cambridgeshire where the cheese was invented!
Facts and Figures
The 26th December, Boxing Day, is celebrated in a number of countries that used to form part of the British Empire. It was custom for servants who had to wait on their masters on Christmas Day, to have the following day off to visit their families. They would be given a box to take home containing gifts and bonuses and sometimes left-over food. Here in the UK and also Canada, Australia, Trinidad and Tobago and New Zealand, the day is primarily known as a shopping holiday and lots of sports fixtures are now held on this day too.
For those born in December, their star signs will be either Sagittarius or Capricorn with the birthstone being the turquoise, tanzanite or zircon; and birth flower, the narcissus.
The day length is down to its shortest at seven hours and forty-nine minutes and the sea temperature will be down to 12° – certainly not the chilliest it’ll get this winter!
December birthdays include: Dame Judi Dench (9th), Kenneth Branagh (10th), Paula Radcliffe (17th), Maurice & Robin Gibb (22nd) and Annie Lennox (25th).
In the Garden
This month is the last chance to plant new fruit trees and bushes for next summer’s fruits. Secure the tree loosely to its stake to prevent it being dislodged and remember to water when it doesn’t rain! Leave any parsnips in the ground – they taste much better after the frosts, and if there’s any tomatoes left out, they’re unlikely to ripen any further. Bring them in and put them next to a banana to ripen quickly. Or make them into a green tomato chutney – ideal as a present!
Protect your pond by skimming off any leaves and trimming any foliage so as not to pollute the water. If you’ve any fish, float a tennis ball in the water to stop the fish becoming icebound. Pruning any dormant plants quite severely will prove beneficial for next seasons growth.
Finally, have a very Happy Christmas and prosperous New Year. I hope you’ve had as much enjoyment reading this monthly feature, as I’ve had putting it together!