Keeping Christmas

“Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children; to remember the weaknesses and lonliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and to ask yourself if you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thougts and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open? Are you willing to do these things for a day? Then you are ready to keep Christmas!”
― Henry van Dyke

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It’s time to roll up our sleeves, knocking out some of that holiday cooking!! I always start with one of my husband’s favorite accompaniments to any holiday meal— featuring that most holiday festive little red orb, the cranberry. But to accompany those tart little beauties, a citrus is necessary. . .hence, our story of the lowly calamondin and it’s cousin the kumquat.

A couple of months ago you may remember the picture of my kumquat tree–it was heavy laden with nice bright green round orbs. I was in a bit of a panic as the green orbs needed to hurry up in order to turn a luscious orange before the first frost. Long story short, the tree is now living in the basement with green orbs which are finally deciding to turn orange, slowly but surely.

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The reason behind the need for a kumquat tree is actually for the provision of a key ingredient in a highly guarded important seasonal family recipe. My aunt, who lives in south Florida, yes the one now minus a kidney, who by the way is doing quite marvelously thank you very much, use to make a delightful holiday relish. It was called Martha’s cranberry calamondin relish. What’s a calamondin you ask? It’s a sour little orange looking type fruit and is a key ingredient in the cranberry calamondin relish–hence the name.

About a year or so ago I asked my aunt for the recipe, thinking I’d try my hand at this amazing little relish rather than wait for jars to arrive via a visit or UPS. My aunt was a little shady about the whole thing. What’s the deal I was wondering. Is she going to give it to me or not? Finally I wore her down. I wrote feverishly as she recalled the ingredients over the phone, and double checked the accompanying e-mail. The last sentence of her e-mail was chilling.
“Immediately delete this e-mail and don’t you tell anyone this recipe or I will have to kill you”

Hummmm. . .I think it’s written down in some sacred tome that it’s ok for relatives to say that sort of thing to one another as I think there is a fine line between love and hate in families—as no doubt many of you are currently discovering during your own balancing act during this lovely holiday season.

My aunt can be a scary person so I heeded her ominous words.

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The recipe is simply divine. My husband loves it. He eats it by the spoonfuls. It’s tart and sweet all rolled into one. A heady concoction that pairs so beautifully with holiday meals. It is somewhat reminiscent of a wild lingonberry sauce. I once had something similar served alongside a hearty plate of sauerbraten when traveling throughout Austria. Something about the sweet tart coupled with a gamey savory—a beautiful amalgamation of tastes converging in one’s mouth.

Yet the one huge glaring missing key to the success of the recipe, if I was going to try my hand at tastebud heaven, were the calamondins. Has anyone, who lives outside of some tropical region, ever heard of a calamondin? I for one had not.

Think, think, think. . .

What could I use as an alternative??? I know, what about those kumquat things they sell at the grocery store–the ones I only see during the holidays as if they are imported small treasures from some exotic land. . .aka Florida?!

Which brings us to the small purchase I made a couple of summers ago—a small burgeoning fruit ladened kumquat tree. Sadly, I realized much later, that my little tree would never produce the required amount of fruit for the recipe so I would still need to supplement from the grocery store’s seasonal stock pile.

And I suppose it is safe for me to tell you that I have tailored this recipe to me and my own culinary skills—adding a little bit of this and a little dash of that—yet it is the image, that is burned on the inside of my retinas, that simply forbids me from sharing verbatim the full recipe here with you today. I will, however, share the images of it all coming together- – –


Step 1, you will need a bunch of these:

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and a bunch of these succulent garnet beauties—

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Assemble all your ingredients—oops, I forgot to showcase a couple of key players. . .oh well, just use your imagination as to what they may be—

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Oh, and you’ll need one of these. . .

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WAIT!! Is that a Coke?! You didn’t say anything about a Coke!! Well, I saw a leftover can sitting on the counter. . .so just a splash, as I am a true southerner, Coke goes into everything we consume.

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Don’t forget to release the Kraken—

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Simmer away listening to the pop, pop, pop of those little scarlet gems

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Voila–Cookie’s new and improved cranberry kumquat relish—–

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And let’s not tell Martha we talked about any of this shall we. . .

And as I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”