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Ginger Wine or Cordial

December sees once again the approach of The Daft Days (24December to 6 January) and its great highlight, in Scottish terms, which is Hogmanay (31 December). There is great debate over how the last day in the year gained that name in Scotland, most answers lean towards a French connection, but there is no doubt that it has played a significant part in Scottish life over many centuries. But why, for example in Burghead on the Moray Firth, is Hogmanay not celebrated until the 11th of January? It all goes back to 1752 when the Westminster Government decided to harmonise Britain’s calendar with the continental Gregorian one, which required eleven days to be dropped from the calendar. Consequently eleven days were simply drooped from the calendar in September of that year. The public were incensed and calls were made to be given back the eleven days which they felt had been stolen from them. In many areas people just ignored the government decree and stuck with the Old Style calendar – hence in Burghead their New Year Clavie burning is still held on the old date.

Burghead and its fire-burning ceremony is a reminder of how important fire was to our fore-bears as a sign of renewal. Fire continued to play a large part in welcoming the New Year up to the first quarter of the 20th century and in towns and villages bone-fires were a common sight the length and breadth of Scotland. Nowadays fire ceremonies can still be enjoyed in Biggar, Comrie and Stonehaven on 31 December, and as noted eleven days later in Burghead.

Another Hogmanay tradition was to supply a hugh copper kettle of Het Pint, basically mulled ale, which was carried through the streets for the benefit of revellers. Our recipe this week is non-alcoholic but is like Het Pint, a warming refreshment, and in its own right another Hogmanay tradition.  Ginger Wine is a great favourite of bairns of all ages and it packs a punch but without the fear of a hangover!

Ginger Wine or Cordial

Ingredients:  2oz (50g) root ginger; 2 lemons; 2 oranges; 1 gallon (3.8 litres) water; 3 1/2 lbs (1.5 kg) sugar; small pinch of cayenne pepper

Method:  Break the ginger up, .and boil it with one gallon of water and the rind of the oranges and lemons. Add a small pinch of cayenne pepper during boiling. Strain the liquid into a container holding the sugar. Add the juice of the lemons and oranges. Strain and bottle, Makes approximately one gallon – if you wish a milder brew use rather less ginger and miss out the cayenne pepper.

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