It is a treat to welcome author Daisy Banks today, and I mean that literally. Not only has she brought us the scoop on her new romance Christmas Carols, she has included a tempting recipe as well. Welcome, Daisy!
Thank you, Rosanna, for your kind offer to help me celebrate the release of my new book Christmas Carols, published by Liquid Silver Books on the 10th of August.
I know readers might think it a little odd to be thinking about Christmas in August but in Victorian England, where my story is set, people were used to starting their Christmas preparations early.
Many people in that era had fruit bushes and trees in their gardens and preserving the fruit to use later in the year lead to some interesting recipes. One of which remains a favorite method of preserving fruit. This is done by using a complimentary liqueur or spirit and bottling the fruit in it.
Victorian estates big enough to have a conservatory or walled garden had the best possible ingredients to work with. The mistress of such a home would be delighted if her cook could offer peaches in brandy or cherries in kirsch for the Christmas table.
Peaches in brandy.
5 large ripe peaches (as perfect as you can find them)
100g (3.5 oz) caster sugar
1 vanilla pod (per jar of peaches) optional
600ml brandy, or more if required you need enough to cover the fruit in the jars.
Sterilize the jars ready for your fruit and brandy. This is vital. If you don’t have perfectly clean jars your fruit may well go bad.
Select perfect and ripe peaches. Place them in a deep bowl and completely cover the fruit with boiling water. Allow the fruit to sit for about three minutes.
Take a peach out of the hot water and put it on a plate. Try to peel the skin off. It should slide off easily, if it doesn’t return to the hot water and wait another couple of minutes. When you know the fruit is ready to peel do all of them and then cut them in half. Gently remove the peach pit from the centre.
Cut peaches into quarters and then halve again if necessary depending on the size of your jars. Place peaches in layers in the jar add a layer of caster sugar over each layer of peaches as you move up the jar. Place a vanilla pod down one side of each jar if you wish to use the vanilla.
Pour brandy into the jar and make sure the peaches are completely covered. Seal tight and then shake gently to help dissolve the sugar.
Place the jar in a cool, dark place for three months though they can last up to six. Make sure you shake the jar gently once a week.
After three months the brandy will have infused into the peaches, obviously if you leave your jars longer the flavours will continue to develop and combine.
Serve delicious brandied peaches.
Alice and Stephen make preparations of their own for Christmas in the story as you can see in this short excerpt.
Full of plans for the morning, and contemplating the details of the flower arrangements she would have in place for the first Sunday of Advent, Alice hurried along the frosty street. She crossed at the corner by the church, stepping with care past a steaming pile left in the road by a passing horse, and made her way through the wrought iron gates and into the church.
Inhaling as she entered the brick building, she found a hint of the fragrance of the lilies she’d missed last night. She pulled off her gloves and unwound her scarf, but before she sat to make one or two preliminary sketches of her ideas for Mr. Francis, she’d discover the placement of her lilies. Setting her things down at the end of one of the pews, she stepped slow to turn in a full circle, tracing the direction of the delicious heady scent in the air.
The lilies sat in one of the small alcoves right on the other side of the nave. As far from their original position at the bottom of the steps leading to the organ as was possible. She tutted as she crossed the nave to pick up the large arrangement to take it back to where it belonged. “I’ll have to speak to the verger and find out who moved them.”
The tall flowers blocked her view, so she took small slow steps.
“Good morning, Mrs. Broadbrace.”
She peered around the side of the floral display. “Good morning, Mr. Grafton. I must say I greatly enjoyed your performance last night.”
He sneezed and sniffed. “Please tell me, madam, is your presence always announced with flowers? I can smell lilies.”
“No, and yes, sir. I’m just placing this arrangement back where it belongs. Someone had moved them.”
“I know. I asked Oswald to remove them before the recital last night.”
She set the flowers down. “I don’t understand, sir.”
He took off his hat. Several strands of his fair hair stood up. The dog sat at his side. “The matter is quite simple, ma’am. I have an aversion to lilies. They have a debilitating effect.”
“Well, all flowers to be truthful, but lilies more than most. I must ask you to refrain from using them in the displays you place anywhere near my seat at the organ.”
“If you’d be so kind could you remove them at once?” He sneezed again.
“I’ve never heard the like.”
An expression that might have been a smile rose on his face. “I’m sure I am not the only individual to suffer from the symptoms they induce.”
“Of course I’ll take them away, Mr. Grafton. May I ask, are there any flowers that don’t affect you?”
He pursed his lips and tapped one finger against the cane in his hand. Several seconds passed until he spoke. “Daisies, I believe they cause no reaction at all.”
“I can’t possibly acquire daisies this time of year!”
Stephen Grafton, the blind organist at Holy Trinity Church, is gaining a reputation for his fine playing and compositions. Alice Broadbrace’s initial venture back into society after years in deep mourning brings her to the notice of the talented organist, and he offers her the opportunity to sing a solo carol to his accompaniment. His courage convinces her to find her own, while her charm entices him into thoughts of romance. A difficult walk in a snow storm is only the beginning of Stephen and Alice’s journey to happiness. Enjoy this sweet Victorian tale of talent and love blossoming.
Thanks for reading
Find Daisy Banks here
Barnes and Noble http://bit.ly/1NWh8gi
Daisy Banks is the author of
Soon to be available with Liquid Silver Books Serving the Serpent
Marked for Magic
A Perfect Match
A Gentleman’s Folly
Your Heart My Soul
A Matter of Some Scandal
Daisy’s books are available here
Daisy Banks writes a regular monthly story in the Sexy to Go compilations.
Attribution for peaches image
“Claude Monet – Das Pfirsichglas” by Claude Monet – Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Claude_Monet_-_Das_Pfirsichglas.jpg#/media/File:Claude_Monet_-_Das_Pfirsichglas.jpg