Christmas is quickly approaching and with it, comes all the magic and wonder of the holiday season. Holiday cheer abounds; Christmas carols spread joy over the radio, decorations and lights sparkle in the streets, and tasty treats and fun traditions evoke nostalgia. I especially enjoy being busy in the kitchen, preparing snacks and goodies, to get in the holiday spirit.
And doing some prep in advance also takes a little bit of pressure off entertaining, whether you are hosting a large party or last-minute guests just popping by.
The great thing about kombucha is you can make several batches weeks in advance and simply store it in the back of the fridge or even a cool basement or porch if you have limited fridge space. Its fantastic for serving in either cocktails or non-alcoholic mocktails, perking up a punch, or even giving out as a gourmet gift. For the holidays this year, I made a brand new recipe – inspired by Clement Clarke Moore’s classic tale:
“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads…”
If you’ve ever wondered what exactly the sugar plums are in this story – you’re not alone! Were the children dreaming of fairies from the Nutcracker? It turns out that Sugar Plums are a Victorian treat traditionally made of preserved plums. These “canned” plums were then rolled in sugar and dried to create a crispy, sugary coating. No wonder the children were having such lucid dreams after consuming so much sugar! However, the sugar plum recipe evolved over time into various sweet treats from candies, to little balls made of fruit and spices, and sometimes nuts. Often they don’t even include plums at all! They are, rather, named “plums” after their shape.
For some more history, check out Smithsonian.com. They discuss the origins of some other classic Christmas recipes you have heard featured via Christmas carols, but have likely never eaten – such as figgy pudding!
If you wanted to try your hand at making your very own Sugar Plums, you can try making the traditional version in this video:
OR, we also sourced a recipe from Chatelaine Magazine that looks as enticing as the ingredients list. The fabulous thing about Chatelaine recipes is that they are triple tested, so no Pinterest fails here!
- 2 cups slivered almonds
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 tsp fennel seeds (finely chopped)
- 1/4 tsp anise seeds (finely chopped)
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 cup icing sugar
- 2/3 cup finely diced dried apricots
- 2/3 cup finely diced prunes
- 2/3 cup finely diced dates
- 2/3 cup coarse/ granulated sugar
- TOAST almonds in an extra-large frying pan over medium, about 5 min. Let cool, 10 min, then finely chop.
- STIR honey with fennel, anise, cardamom and salt in a large resealable zip-lock bag until combined. Add almonds, icing sugar, apricots, prunes and dates. Seal bag and knead until thoroughly mixed.
- POUR coarse sugar into a medium bowl. Scoop out 1-tbsp portions of nut mixture. Use lightly damp hands to roll into balls. Toss in sugar until coated.
- Sugar plums will keep well in a resealable container for up to 2 weeks.
And now for our very own Sugar Plum Christmas Kombucha.
I made my kombucha in keeping with the traditional Victorian Sugar Plum recipe – with the leftover syrup from preserved plums I had in my pantry.
These particular plums were from a canning spree I did 2 years ago, after a glorious trip to the Okanagan. I came back with a carload FULL of tree-ripened fruits (I’m talking flats stacked to the ceiling) and spent the next week preserving all sorts of canned fruits, jams, jellies, fruit butter, and a variety of frozen baking such as pies, tarts, muffins and more. With such a glut of fruit, I had enough to take a few risks and try some daring flavour combinations such as Lemon Saffron Nectarine Jam, Spiced Plum Chutney, Vanilla Cardamom Peach Jelly, and of course some Spiced Plums!
This jar of spiced plums was the very last of my preserves from that trip, so I didn’t want to waste any of it. Once all the plums were consumed, I kept the syrup in the jar in the back of the fridge for another few days, pondering what to do with it. Then it came to me – holiday kombucha!
Although we won’t be able to replicate the recipe exactly, since the original syrup was made over time by preserving whole plums and spices infused over time – here is a quicky-version that will do nicely:
Sugar Plum Christmas Kombucha
Spiced Plum Syrup:
- 4 cups of water
- 1 cup of sugar
- 4 fresh plums, cut in half
- 1 dried prune, whole
- 1 small piece of cinnamon bark
- 1 clove
- 1 cardamom pod
- 1 star anise
- 1 inch piece of ginger
- Bring ingredients to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.
- Immediately reduce heat to minimum, slowly simmer until the fruit softens and releases its flavours into the syrup (approx 30 min). The spice aroma will make your home smell amazing!
- Liquid should be reduced to about 3 or 4 cups at this point. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Strain syrup through a nut milk bag to remove fruit and spices. Enjoy the fruit as a snack!
Next, flavour your kombucha with the syrup:
- Fill a flip-top bottle 1/3 full with the Spiced Plum Syrup.
- Top with brewed kombucha.
- Seal the bottle and allow to rest on the counter for 3-7 days.
- Ideal brewing temperature is around 24 degrees Celsius, so find a cozy spot in your kitchen.
- Test your kombucha for carbonation – if you “burp” the bottle by easing open the lid and lots of bubbles start to form – you’re done!
- Move to the fridge to store or enjoy right away on ice!
What are some of your favourite holiday recipes or traditions?
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