Saturday, December 3, 2011

Weekend Cooking...Keeping Christmas Well.

Preparations for the Christmas Season are upon us!
Christmas lights are going up on houses. OK, not mine..
Presents are being wrapped in colorful papers, with ribbons and bows. No, not mine yet.
Christmas cards are being sent. I will get to it soon, I promise.

But I am undertaking a few things. Today, I will start the baking of my Christmas cake. And I have also started the search for the perfect Christmas beverage. And where better to look that Dickens A Christmas Carol?

I think for many of us the image of the perfect Christmas has been colored by this book..and maybe even more so by the various movie versions of the book. Happy carolers on snowy streets, a prize turkey in the oven and the steaming pudding presented on the table for the admiration of all.
But what does A Christmas Carol say about beverage?
Well, if you read carefully, you will find mention of at least one...the Smoking Bishop.

"A Merry Christmas, Bob!" said Scrooge with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. "A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I'll raise your salary, and endeavor to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon over a bowl of Smoking Bishop, Bob!"

It seems that the English of the period liked a certain ecclesiastical connection with their alcoholic beverages. As Cedrick Dickens, Charles Dickens great-grandson, explains in a book he wrote called 
Drinking with Dickens, "people back in the 1800s enjoyed a whole range of 'clerical drinks,' and Smoking Bishop was one of these. Pope is burgundy, Cardinal is champagne or rye, Archbishop is claret, Bishop is port, and so on,"

So we can assume that a Smoking Bishop contain port, but where do we go from there? Well happily, Cedrick provides us with a recipe as well and if you do a search, it is the one you will see repeated again and again. So lets find our cloves and search for some Seville oranges and set about making a bowl. It is sort of a winter version of sangria!

Smoking Bishop

1. Take six Seville oranges and bake them in a moderate oven until pale brown. If you cannot procure any bitter Seville oranges, use four regular oranges and one large grapefruit.
2. Prick each of the oranges with five whole cloves, put them into a warmed ceramic or glass vessel with one-quarter pound of sugar and a bottle of red wine, cover the vessel, and leave it in a warm place for 24 hours.
3. Take the oranges out of the mixture, cut in half and squeeze the juice, then pour the juice back into the wine.
4. Pour the mixture into a saucepan through a sieve, add a bottle of port, heat (without boiling), and serve in warmed glasses.
Drink the mixture, and keep Christmas well!

Now, for those of us that may not be able to polish off a bowl of punch with three bottle in one sitting, but don't want to be roasting oranges as the guests pull up with their sleighs and silver bells ring, I also found some instructions for doing much of the preparation in advance and then being able to add the last ingredients and warm it at the last minute...

1.     Wash the oranges and bake them in a moderate oven (180°C/350°F) until they are pale brown (approx 30 minutes). 
2.     Put them into a warmed earthenware mixing bowl with five cloves pricked into each.
3.     Add the sugar and pour in the wine - not the Port.
4.     Cover and leave in a warm place for a day.
5.     Squeeze the oranges into the wine and pour it through a sieve.

If storing, pour into sterilized bottles and seal, omitting the port. When ready to use add port and heat as above.

Of course, you are free to take the recipe and run from there.
I have seen recipes that add lemons instead or in addition to the grapefruit. Some add some brandy, which certainly could not hurt. I saw one that added pomegranate seeds, which sounded very festive and a grating of nutmeg on each glass before it is served seems common. The same site also suggested continuing to simmer the Bishop down until it forms a syrup and using it to top ice cream.

OK, now you really have my attention! Ice cream and booze. Now that says festive!

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.


  1. How fun to look for such a classic recipe <3 I can't make it myself because of my orange allergy, but I do find it very inspirational! :)

  2. What a cool book! And I love it that it was written by a Dickens relative. Fun. I'm making a hot cranberry, orange, and rum drink for a brunch tomorrow, but I've not tried a warm wine drink. I might cut this down a bit and see if I can make a very small batch just to try it.

  3. Lol, Caite! I got the Christmas card thing down pat this year. I decided after 45 years not to send any.

  4. Sounds like a fun book! I bought Christmas cards yesterday, but that's as far as I've gotten with it.

  5. We are lagging behind in the Christmas prep this year, though I have at least made a good start on my cookie baking.

    This book sounds like a hoot :)

  6. I loved hearing about your preparations for Christmas. I'm a bit behind but I'll catch up. It was fun reading about the "clerical" drinks. I think this warm wine punch would be a great one to try.

  7. Fun book! I'd love the syrupy Bishop on ice cream, but also count me in to try the brandy Bishop! Good luck with the Christmas prep :)

  8. Ice cream and booze indeed! I'm happy to not be pregnant this Christmas and finally get to experience the boozy and ice creamy egg nog on Christmas Eve. ;)

    Sounds like such a fun book!!

  9. I find it funny that there's a book about Dickens and drinking! It sounds interesting.

    We do have our tree up with lights and ribbon but I've yet to purchase Christmas cards...
    must get on that.

  10. I love this!! How interesting. :)

  11. I don't generally drink red wine, but for this, I would definitely make an exception. Thanks for sharing this interesting recipe.

  12. That punch - wow! I don't think I'd be able to walk home after even one glass :) I do like a warm mulled something-or-other, though.

    Christmas cards? I haven't yet purchased any ... time's ticking, isn't it?!

  13. I love the idea of recreating old fashioned drinks at the holidays - and you are right, who better to consult that Charles Dickens :)

    Sadly...I have not sent Christmas cards in years, but I do have my Christmas tree up and a few lights have been hung outside.

  14. I made a list! Does that count?


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