Christmas Past

The fascinating stories behind your favorite Christmas traditions

Interview — Julia Georgallis, author of How to Eat Your Christmas Tree

Christmas trees are for decorating, admiring, and placing decoratively wrapped gifts underneath. But how about…for eating? Baker and designer Julia Georgallis joins me in this episode to discuss her new book, How to Eat Your Christmas Tree. It’s the result of a five-year culinary experiment centered around sustainability at Christmas time. Julia has shared her recipe for Christmas Tree and Ginger Ice Cream with us!

Christmas Tree & Ginger Ice Cream

This is hands down my favourite recipe from the supper club, and I have shared it generously over the years with anyone who will listen. I like to use blue spruce, as I think it is the champion of conifers (it tastes a little like vanilla), but, as with all these recipes, you can interchange the type of Christmas tree you use depending on what you have access to.

Makes

950 g (2 lb 2 oz) of ice cream

Prep Time

2 hours with an ice-cream maker, 4 hours without one

Ingredients

  • 300 g (101⁄2 oz) blue spruce needles or 400 g (14 oz) any other type of Christmas tree needles
  • 510 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) double (heavy) cream
  • 170 ml (6 fl oz/3/4 cup) whole (full-fat) milk (ideally Jersey milk)
  • 170 g (6 oz/3/4 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 5 pieces stem ginger, chopped

Instructions

Spruce, fir and pine needles can be very sharp, so care must be taken not to hurt your fingers while preparing them for cooking. You will need a pair of large, sharp scissors and a big bowl. Snip some larger branches from your tree. Wash the branches under cold, running water, making sure that you get rid of all possible bits of mud and dirt. You may notice that there are balls of sap, but this is safe to eat, as are the dried buds which might be at the end of some of the branches. Turn the branch upside down over a bowl so that the needles make a chevron shape. Using scissors, cut upwards so that the needles fall directly into the bowl. I usually then wash the snipped needles once more before using them.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan whisk the cream, milk, sugar and egg yolks until well combined. Add the needles to the cream mixture and heat gently, stirring continuously so that the mixture doesn’t catch on the bottom or sides of the pan. After 15 minutes, turn the heat up to medium.

When bubbles begin to appear around the edge of the pan, the custard is ready and can be removed from the heat. Sieve the mixture two or three times through a fine sieve (fine mesh strainer) so that none of the needles end up in the final ice cream mixture. If using an ice-cream maker, add the sieved mixture to the churning pot and begin the churning process. Before it freezes, add the chopped stem ginger and continue churning until it is frozen. Transfer the frozen ice cream to the freezer.

If you don’t own an ice-cream maker, transfer the mixture to a tub or dish and leave to cool completely. Once cooled, transfer to the freezer. Stir the mixture every hour and when it is beginning to freeze (about 2 hours) but not completely solid, add the chopped stem ginger and mix well. Continue stirring each hour until the ice cream is completely frozen. This will take about 4 hours.

Once it is frozen, keep it in the freezer until ready to serve.

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