Christmas candles, carolers, glazed fruits…all are good!
Which Christmas decorations evoke a great memory for you? In our home, Christmas candles, carolers, and glazed fruits rank in the top three. Christmas candles appear in several forms. When a good share of our bungalow windows are graced with the plastic electric ivory candles, complete with counterfeit dripping wax and orange flame bulbs, you know it is cause for celebration. What a cozy glow they give at twilight time as the blue of day slips away. You experience firsthand the power of a candle lighting a window. Think of years ago, no street lights, yet, this single lighted candle was placed in the window to give direction, and in many cases, hope for travelers. Nothing tailors an evening home like a candles in the windows.
Inspirational always are Christmas carolers! What would Christmas be without music?
We can all relate to a gathered chorus on our front steps singing in the cool of the night, “Away in the Manger.” With our ears and hearts in tune and a little imagination, we can actually see the royal blue of the Bethlehem. A real favorite are the china carolers that make their appearance on pianos, living room shelves, and gathered with some greens on the hall table. Most of them are in robes of red or white. Please notice their mouths are creating that perfect circle that all choir instructors love!
Our grandest display of carolers can be found in our front yard, complete with a blonde haired girl on the organ. The young boys that join her have been told by their parents, “You had better sing loud.” This vintage collection came to us through the hands of Jim and Arlyne Rothschiller when they had their antique shop. During the early 50’s it was common for folks to create their own Christmas yard figurines and many were truly stunning. It was really the ladies of the fifties that came up with this idea. You see their husbands expected them to be the perfect hostess, complete with a dress, chiffon Christmas apron and pumps! Once men realized they had more of a stake in the Christmas decorating by having to create wonderful yard figurines, they cooled their jets! It was for these very reasons leisure suits, fondues, crock pots and ladies’ loafers started having a real relationship with Christmas celebrations! I am not sure who the woman was that pressed on her husband to create our yard figurines, but I am forever grateful.
Always adding to the special effects of Christmas are glazed fruits. Many times we see them in ornaments, glazed cherries, pears and even oranges. When strolling down the aisle in Leever’s that contains the glazed fruits, do you ever find yourself stopping to admire these baubles of gems? The mixed fruits, pineapples slices, and the round containers of red and green cherries are all born for the big moment of entertaining. Will it be a fruitcake, wreath cookies, Christmas bread, or a fancy pudding these fruits with their sparkling personality will facet? For many years, I have been attracted to these rhinestones of our baking world. This interest in transforming fruits and nuts into sweet jewels of goodness had me searching for a recipe to create my own jewels. It is the touch that will make your baked treats sparkle with real standout beauty.
The delight and secret to creating sparking fruits lies in a fine thin glaze called by professional bakers, glace syrup. When doing glazed fruits, you must realize they don’t keep their gleam for a long period of time. Therefore, it is best to do them shortly before you need them. Glazed nuts keep for about a week when packed in an airtight container and stored in cool conditions. Weather often plays an important part in our recipes. You will want to work with this syrup on a cold, dry day. It is important to have a bowl of cold ice water to dip your fingers into before handling the fruit. The syrup is good and hot so you will want to be careful not to touch it! With the right blending and practice, you will find this glaze to be cooperative.
2 cups of sugar
2/3 cups of water
teaspoon cream of tartar
In the top of a double boiler, dissolve 2 cups sugar in 2/3 cup water. Bring the syrup to a boil, and add teaspoon cream of tartar. Sugar crystals will form around the pan and you don’t want this. Simply remove these by wrapping a fork in wet cheesecloth and running it on the inside of the pan. Cook the syrup, without stirring until the candy thermometer registers 300 degrees, or until a little syrup dropped into cold water forms a brittle thread. You will want to keep this syrup over boiling water to prevent it from hardening.
With a fork or spear, dip the chilled and thoroughly dry fruits or nuts into the syrup and drain the excess syrup against the side of the pan. Stir as little as possible. Place the fruits or nuts on an oiled pan to set up.
The syrup works well on prunes, figs, grapes in bunches and even strawberries. When doing strawberries, it is nice to leave the green hull only and only dip up to the hull. Walnuts, pecan halves, almonds, brazil nuts and even chestnuts become beautiful with this syrup. These sparkling gems work well to garnish just about anything! In fact, one year I glued them on place cards and the guests were impressed. Thank goodness, because the gravy served that evening was not that grand!
Several years ago I made a birthday cake for Jan with pressed almonds adorning the sides and on top were clusters of glazed grapes. When you want to add that touch that will catch the eye of your diners, go for glazed fruits.
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