Christmas is a-coming

Even though we have only just finished summer, it is not too early to start thinking about Christmas in the kitchen. Christmas happens on the same day each year, yet so many of us get caught unawares and spend a frantic December trying to get everything ready in time. There are plenty of things that can be started now, to allow a more relaxed run-up to the big day. Here are some ideas on how to get ahead in peace.

Cakes and puddings
It is traditional for the Christmas cake to be planned and made well in advance. A popular time for making the rich and delicious fruit cake is known as Stir Up Sunday, which falls on the final Sunday before Advent – the four-week run-up to Christmas itself. While this may be a few weeks off still, it is not too early to check recipes and make sure you have the longer-lasting ingredients in stock, such as dried fruit, alcohol, nuts and spices. Are your cake tin and pudding basin going to be large enough? Is it time to replace older versions?

Decorations
This is another way for you to get ahead and create some stunning, natural decorations at a fraction of store prices. Collect pine cones when you go out on autumn walks, along with interesting branches and seed heads that can be sprayed silver or gold and added to Christmas displays. Make traditional Christmas pomanders by pressing cloves into an orange and baking it on a very low heat in the oven to dry it, or placing it in the airing cupboard for several weeks. This will result in deliciously scented, natural decorations that you can add a ribbon to and display in a glass bowl over Christmas.

Presents
Many people love to make and receive home-made presents at Christmas. There are hundreds of ideas out there for edible treats, from biscuits and fudge to flavoured vodkas and home brewed beer. Many of these require a long lead time and so need to be panned and started sooner rather than later. Crafted gifts are popular too, so get out the knitting needles, embroidery threads or paint brushes and get going now to give yourself plenty of time to allow your crafted gifts to turn out just the way you want them to.

Autumn cleaning
If you are planning a Christmas full of home-baked goodies and a kitchen crammed with happy guests, think about giving the room a thorough clean and declutter now. This will remove dust and dirt trekked in from the garden during summer and allow you to exchange your salad spinners and ice cream makers for roasting tins and casserole dishes. Starting out with a clean and tidy kitchen will help your Christmas preparations take off in the right way with minimal fuss and bother.