I’m hosting family Christmas at my home this year.
Whilst the meal itself doesn’t hold any particular worries, what I do know about entertaining is that it’s not the delivering of food and drink that’s going to drive you bonkers on the day itself, but the random things that distract and take up too much time at the last minute when you should be basting the turkey, making the gravy, and ensuring the dog/cat/children aren’t stealing the chocolate.
So I’ve made a list of all the things I need to do this week so that by the time Christmas Eve rolls round on Monday I’m not impersonating Munch’s scream every time someone asks me for something.
I’ve ramped up the cleaning to previously unseen levels over the past month. Maria, who has cleaned for me for some six years, keeps saying things like: you cleaned the top of the extractor fan? Really? Why?
But beyond ensuring that not a square inch of my house has gone undusted, and that every drawer has undergone the Vicky Silverthorn method, there are some other things which really DO need thinking about on the housekeeping front.
Defrost the freezer
Not everyone has the luxury of enough room for a chest freezer, and fitting things in my half size one has become a constant game of food Jenga. Now is the time to scrape off the icebergs, and jettison the mystery frozen lumps that have been in there forever to make room for pre-prepped foods, leftovers, emergency snacks and those delectable frozen macarons from Iceland about which I was raving last year.
Think about ice (ice baby)
I long for an integrated ice maker but for the moment I’ll be making ice the old fashioned way. Check and fill ice cube trays. If you drink gin like my family you’ll want a lot.
Check you have enough dinner plates, side plates and pudding bowls/plates, and make sure you have plenty of serving dishes, a gravy boat, and a platter for the turkey. (Charity shops are a great place to look for interesting pieces if you don’t want to invest in once a year china.)
Wash everything that you haven’t used for some time; I keep my platters on top of the kitchen cupboards and you would not believe the dust and grease that adheres to them in just a month or two.
Worth counting to check you have enough settings. It’s not so ideal when someone has to eat Christmas lunch with a baby spoon. This could also be the time to polish any table silver that is tarnished, although I suspect that most people will prioritise sleep and sanity in the run up to Christmas over making sure that Great Aunt Mary’s mustard pot is gleaming.
Wash wine glasses and Champagne flutes
If they are kept in a kitchen cupboard and haven’t been used for a while, they will probably be dusty and/or greasy. This catches me out almost every time I have a supper party and I find myself washing smeary glasses frantically when I should be welcoming guests.
Check your kitchen equipment
Do you have the right size cake or tart tin, a big enough colander to drain the potatoes (my edit is here), a glass bowl for the trifle etc etc? And if you, like me, are in the habit of stashing rarely used items like extra big saucepans in the garage or storage unit, now is definitely the time to remember – not Christmas morning.
It’s going to be doing heavy duty for the next fortnight. Its a really good idea to make sure it’s properly clean so it doesn’t belch out black smoke after it’s been on for five hours roasting the turkey. I’m all in favour of booking one of those mobile oven cleaning services.
The roasting tin
Check you have one big and deep enough for the turkey (like these). My mother was convinced I wouldn’t have one because I am vegetarian. I pointed out that my oven is a standard size, so if I have a roasting tin that fits my oven then I have a tin big enough for a turkey…
No one needs to hack about at the Christmas turkey and ham, food goes further when it’s cut properly, and kitchen prep is a lot quicker with a sharp knife. Not to mention safer – the other thing no one needs at Christmas is blood spurting over the kitchen because a blunt knife slipped.
If you need to replace any knives then Victorinox are always a good bet (especially their classic £5 paring knife), and I would also highly recommend TK Maxx & HomeSense who always have a great range of brilliant and very inexpensive knives in store.
I use a London-wide sharpening service that comes to my door and does all my knives in one go. Otherwise use a steel if you know what you are doing, or order one of these.
Check kitchen supplies
Toothpicks for the pigs in blankets, and nibbles. Greaseproof paper & string for re-heating the pudding. Extra large tin foil to make a giant tent for the turkey as it rests.
Think about tablecloths and napkins
I like to break out the family linen on Christmas Day but believe me when I say it’s paper all the way on Boxing Day; there is no shame in cutting corners when entertaining the masses. I love the selection of paper napkins at H&M of all places. These Amaryllis ones are £1.99 for 20.
You’ve probably already done the tree, wreath and crackers, but don’t forget candles and flowers. I’m using pots of pretty white cyclamen throughout the house which will last for the duration of the Christmas period – they’re currently £2.50 a large pot at Morrison’s, and will stop me having to think about changing the water in flower vases in a week’s time.
Stock up on extra bin liners, more rolls of Sellotape than anyone could ever need, ever, spare light bulbs, extra long matches to light your candles, batteries. This might be the time to invest in a battery charger and a couple of sets of rechargeable batteries in AAA, AA and C sizes. (Make sure you buy a Universal one, not just one for AA/AAA batteries, and which allows you to charge an individual battery, as well as differently sized batteries simultaneously.)
Check your torch has working batteries if you are planning on heading out to Midnight Mass.c
Check the dishwasher salt and rinse aid, and make sure you have enough tablets. Likewise for the washing machine.
Food & Drink
I’ve got The List (of doom) for the vital and obvious Christmas greengroceries and supermarket basics but it’s worth doing a kitchen and store cupboard stocktake now in case you’ve run out of anything that’s not on your everyday list.
(I know I live in London where most things can be tracked down, but if you live rural like my mother in rural Northamptonshire, it’s fifteen minutes by car to a small shop, and a forty five minute round trip to a town if you need anything more exotic than apples and oranges, so I’ve inherited the get the house stocked up mentality.)
Coffee & tea
In our case that means ordering enough Nespresso Capsules to power a small city. Thankfully Nespresso does next day delivery. I’ve also just filled my capsule recycling bag, so I’ve put that in the car ready to drop off at Collect+, and got a new empty one out. If granny will only drink Yorkshire Tea, or your cousin requires green tea, and your father prefers Sweetex to sugar make sure it’s all on The List.
Check on levels of cupboard basics
Black peppercorns for the grinder, sea salt, condiments like mayonnaise, Branston and Sriracha for the turkey sandwiches on Boxing Day. Vegetable oils – I use olive for roast potatoes, rapeseed for frying.
Food & Drink Prep
I don’t do a lot in advance for Christmas Day but I do recommend considering doing these things this week:
Make & freeze breadcrumbs for bread sauce
Make & freeze cranberry sauce
If you are a gravy fanatic now is the time to start saving your meat jellies from roasts, and making reduced stocks
Make the Christmas cake (put enough booze in it and it will stay moist) and mince pies (they freeze)
Think about the booze
I’ve got a separate post coming up on my perfect Christmas drinks tray, but also think about what kind of mixers and non-alcoholic drinks you want to get in, and if you’ve got enough glasses.
If you are planning on eating cheese over Christmas then buy it this week so it has time to mature. It’s not so important for hard cheeses, but soft cheeses need time to ripen to perfection. If you are lucky enough to have access to a proper cheesemonger or even, heaven, La Fromagerie or Paxton & Whitfield, then they can sell you cheese in the state of ripeness that you need.
Don’t forget the dog antlers.
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