Edible gifts are the best. End of story.
The Fella took this picture in our Dublin apartment in early December 2008. I was pretty intent on making, oh about 10 bazillion litres of jam and so didn’t notice when he crept up behind me. That was the year the Irish recession was just starting to take hold, and boy did it take us all by surprise.
For most of the preceding Christmases, I ran up huge credit card bills buying unnecessary presents for both of our families. Not that the gifts were unnecessary, I like giving people gifts, but I think we’d kind of lost the true spirit of it. I know I’m at risk of sounding like cheesy American film, but bear with me here. We bought things just for the sake of giving them, without really thinking if the recipient would need, or even like the gift. We were also buying for so many people; getting ‘something small’ for The Fella’s-cousin’s-ex-boyfriend’s-neighbour-because-they-sat-beside-us-in-the-pub-one-night suddenly became perfectly reasonable. Celtic-tiger Ireland was certainly a place to behold.
Then in 2008 I had what the Australians call a ‘dummy spit’. I had been working in a high-pressure sales job and was watching the market contract before my very eyes. But also on a personal level, I’d just had enough of the excess, the waste, and most of all, the pressure. So I went on-line and ordered two cases of jam jars; and that was my Christmas shopping done. It took all of 10 minutes.
I ended up making a trio of preserves: chili and tomato relish, rhubarb and ginger jam and lemon and orange marmalade. I packaged them all together in cute little bags and gave them as gifts to friends and family alike. I wish I had a picture of them, but this was long before I had ever even thought of blogging.
They were the most successful presents I ever gave. Small, thoughtful, delicious; but most of all: useful.
Since then, I’ve never reverted back to the mass-consumer gift giving. The Fella and I have pared back our list and our spending. Of course, we don’t make everything we give, but we do try to put in a little more thought into what we give and to whom. And this year everyone we love will be getting a jar of this delicious curd on various special occasions.
I made this a few weeks ago with the last of the autumn passion fruit, and oh my god was it delicious. It lasted all of two days in our fridge, and that was with us trying to be self-controlled! It’s like lemon curd but it gets an extra little bit of tang from the passionfruit, also the seeds give it a lovely bit of texture. It could go on absolutely anything from pie-crust to scones to ice-cream or meringue. And best of all you can personalise your labels or jars and turn it into the perfect (and dare I say it: pretty darned impressive) gift for any occasion.
For this curd I adapted a recipe in Rachel Allen’s book Rachel’s Favourite Food at Home. I was gifted this book a few years ago by my friend and fellow blogger Mrs. Zoom, and it’s wonderful. It has a whole section on edible gifts, and is where I found the recipes for my Christmas trifecta of preserves back in 2008.
Makes one large jar.
100 g butter
1 egg yoke
175 g caster sugar
zest and juice of ½ a lemon
seeds juice and pulp of 3 small passion fruit
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan over a very low heat (as an aside, I LOVE the smell of melting butter). Meanwhile, in a separate bowl whisk together the eggs and the egg yokes and set aside.
Once the butter has melted, slowly stir in the sugar, lemon juice and zest and passion fruit and stir for as long as it takes for all of the sugar to dissolve. Next add in the eggs very slowly and stirring all the time. Once all of the egg as been added, continue to stir carefully until the mixture begins to thicken. This will take at least 10 minutes, maybe more, but don’t turn up the heat; if you do the eggs will scramble, just be patient and keep on stirring.
When the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and leave a clear mark when you push a finger through it, your curd is ready.
Allow to cool and transfer to a sterilised (10 minutes in boiling water or at 200 °C in the oven) jar. This will keep in the fridge for at least two weeks, but I guarantee you’ll have it all gobbled up in about 10 minutes flat, so you better write a nice note and drop it around to a friend’s place pronto!