Holidays. Movies. For me, they go hand in hand. Whether it’s enjoying Mose and Ramses struggling with each other to decide who controls the fate of the Hebrews at Easter, or John Wayne trying to recapture his more peaceful life in Ireland on Saint Patrick’s day, there always seems to be a movie that I’m looking forward to as each Holiday arrives.
And so comes Christmas. OK, I’m not in small company here. When it comes to Christmas, just about everyone has “that movie”, the approximately 2 hours of cinema that just captures your Holiday spirit the way nothing else does.
Someone in one of my Facebook groups posted a question about that very thing today, and the responses ranged from the obvious to the decidedly less so – It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, White Christmas and on the more slanted side; Bad Santa, Elf or Gremlins (if you don’t remember why, check it out on Netflix).
Here at tDoB, Tracey will have A Christmas Story on for as much of the 24 hour marathon that it runs as she possibly can, probably only catching the move in its entirety once, but enjoying several select scenes multiple times throughout the day.
For me, it’s simply not the holidays unless I’m catching some version of the Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol – whether it be the 1951 adaptation starring Alastar Sim in the role of holiday hum-bug Ebenezer Scrooge, the 1984 version starring George C Scott (admittedly my least favorite) or the TNT produced version starring Patrick Stewart. And yes, Scrooged.
It’s the TNT version that I seek out every year. Patrick Stewart’s performance of Scrooge is one of my favorites, a gripping performance from an actor who in my mind is excellent at portraying the 180 degree emotional swing of a man who is given a glimpse of the future he as forged for himself, and given the enviable opportunity to change.
And of course, I’d be lying (like all the other Holiday movies I mentioned above) if there wasn’t a beer tie-in involved.
The beer in this case is Boston Beer Company’s Old Fezziwig, a beer named for the festive character from Dickens’ novella which used to enjoy full seasonal release status, but now is sadly relegated to a included brew in BBC’s annual Winter Favorites 12-packs and cases.
And I mean sadly. For me, Fezziwig is one of the best seasonal beers BBC makes, and I look forward to procuring my 2 or 4 bottles every Christmas. So much so, that in order to get my yearly fix of this Holiday goodness, the BBC Winter Favorites pack is the only case of beer I buy outside of cases of Guinness for Saint Patrick’s day – ever. Not lying. I rarely buy cases of beer. I just don’t drink that way. Is it worth it? Let’s taste.
THEM: Old Fezziwig is built on a grain bill of two-row pale, Munich 10 and chocolate malts. The beer is balance with Hallertau, Mittelfrueh, Tettnang, and Tettnanger hops with an IBU finishing at low but respectable 25. Orange peel, ginger, and cinnamon are added to give the beer its festive flavor and the beer clocks in at 5.9%ABV.
ME: Standard beer to start, deep mahogany pour with ample head and lace. The nose has a light touch of spice mixed with malt and chocolate. It’s the lightness in the spice that I appreciate the most about OF. This isn’t Anchor’s Our Special Ale, with an onslaught of spices on the palette no, this has a subtleness about it. A light touch of spice that doesn’t drowned out the basic beer.
The taste has a good backbone of malt which comes across as caramel or brown sugar with more spice layered in. I get the orange and ginger when I drink OF, with the cinnamon playing a very small part in the overall profile (which is good, I’m not much of a cinnamon fan).
The end is balanced, but not overly sharp as one would expect with 25IBUs. I know this term is over used, but I find this beer quite…drinkable, with a hint of lingering spice in the finish. I wish Santa would bring this back in stand alone six-packs, or at the very least bombers. I don’t think I’m asking for much. But I guess I’ll just have to continue to buy the Winter Collections every year.
So there you have it. One of my most looked forward to Holiday beers that perfectly aligns with one of my most looked forward to Holiday movies. But that’s not all.
After years of watching the many incarnations of A Christmas Carol, I one year got curious about the “Christmas Pudding” that takes center stage at the Cratchit family’s Holiday table, and of course, being a little bit of a kitchen troll, I eventually had to make it myself.
Think of traditional Christmas Pudding as a steamed fruit cake. If you only have moderate kitchen skills you can pull this off. The only unusual technique is the use of bain-maries, which you can think of as French for double boiler – because you know, they have a fancy word for everything. But seriously, there’s nothing tough here.
Below is a recipe I found on the internet on Simon Pearson’s Flickr account. It’s pretty consistent with other recipes I’ve researched over the years, and I’ve always had good luck with it. I encourage you to check out the original site with its awesome pictures. But because it’s on Flickr the step-by-step picture “next photo” procedure might be a little cumbersome, so I’ve unified the full recipe and added a few steps below.
Also, the recipe is in metric (if you’re baking or homebrewing, you SHOULD be using metric, but I know many don’t) so I’ve include the equivalent standard measures where needed. I’ve also translated it into what I’d call “Ed Baking Mode”, meaning that on occasion I take shortcuts that I’m sure would make a real baker quiver, but saves you from washing one or two bowls in the process. Enjoy!
1 orange (juice and zest)
3 baby carrots (cut into thin strips and then chopped)
1tbsp mixed spice (Mixed spice is the English cousin to pumpkin pie spice and usually contains cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. You can use PPS in a pinch, or mix your own. And don’t be afraid to add other spices like ginger or cloves if you wish.)
6.2oz (175g) dark muscovado sugar (you can usually find this in specialty food stores. Use dark brown sugar in a pinch)
1.8oz (50g) toasted pecans
5.3oz (150g) chopped dates
5.3oz (150g) chopped prunes
5.3oz (150g) raisins
5.3oz (150g) currants
5.3oz (150g) sultanas (Known here in the US as “Thompson Seedless” which is the grapes that raisins are made from, so they’re kind of redundant in my mind. I’ve substituted chopped dried apricots in the past.)
3 eggs (beaten, or not. See below)
6.2oz (175g) warm butter (easier to work with when warm)
4 slices crustless white bread (crumbed or chopped fine)
2.6oz (75g) blanched almonds, flaked (slivered almonds work)
2.6oz (75g) self-raising flour (you can find self-raising flour in any supermarket)
3.4oz (100ml) Guinness (a four pack of cans works best)
3.4oz (100ml) Grand Marnier
two pudding basins (use what you can find that will work. Circular is best, but mine aren’t)
two large pans with lids (to make bain-maries)
Set up the bain-maries: Put one of your pudding basins into each of the large pans. Fill the pans with water until the level of the water reaches about 3/4 of the way up the basin. Remove the basins.
Drink two of the cans of Guinness to insure freshness. If the Grand Marnier has been sitting around for awhile or looks suspicious, then have some of that also. How much? Until you’re satisfied that its good, or until you just don’t care anymore.
1 – In a bowl, stir together all the fruit, chopped carrots, OJ, Guinness and Grand Marnier. Let sit for at least one hour. Longer is better. Over night is killer. I substituted CB Honey for the Grand Marnier last year.
2 – In another bowl, combine orange zest, sugar, and butter. Mix until smooth like Barry White. Test the brandy.
3 – Add three eggs into the mix from #2 and mix to combine. You can beat them together in another bowl and add them in after – or decide there’s been enough violence in the world for one year and you’d like one less bowl to clean and add them unbeaten. It’s up to you. Finish drinking leftover Guinness, or if you’re still not sure about its motives, test the brandy again.
4 – Sieve into #3 the flour and mixed spice. Add the bread crumbs and nuts. Stir until they behave.
5 – Add the fruit that is now hopefully feeling as little pain as you are to #4 and mix together.
6 – Split the mixture into two well greased pudding basins. Cover with foil and use the string to tie them securely. If you’re feeling adventurous, try tying it in a away that gives you “handles” to easily place and remove the basins into your bain-maries. Or if you like your fingers steamed, don’t.
7 – Bring the water in the bain-maries to a strong simmer. The water should put off a lot of steam, but it shouldn’t be a rolling boil. Once the water is to temperature, lower one of the filled pudding basins into each bain-maries and cover.
8 – Let the puddings steam for 6 hours, checking the water level in the bain-maries often, and adding more water when needed to keep the level constant. This is a good time to test the brandy. What? I already did? I think you’re mistaken.
9 – Once done, carefully remove the basins. The puddings can be immediately turned out and served, or left to cool in the basins and refrigerated for later.
10 – To serve, turn out onto a platter, pour brandy on top of the pudding (I poke a small dent in the middle of the top of pudding to create a well) and light (my lawyers instruct me that I must tell you to be careful with this step. We are not responsible for tabletops, eyebrows or long-haired pets). Owww and Ahhh until the flame goes out. Slice and serve. If serving hot I suggest serving with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and a snifter of something good, like scotch or hey, brandy (if there’s any left at this point.)