'Christmas time, mistletoe and wine, children singing Christian rhyme...' Ah, Cliff - you have it nicely covered there (albeit with an ironic failure to rhyme). For many, wine is the very spirit of Christmas. For others, it's all about the food. Nobody can deny, though, that the festive period is one when we can spoil the family in the victuals department, allowing ourselves a few of our favourites to mark the season.
And whatever your favourites, you'll be bound to find them at DukesHill. This company, renowned for the quality of its artisanal produce, is like a festive wonderland, with everything your table needs for Christmas sold within. Let's go forage.
It's a Christmas conundrum that the biggest turkey is s/he who fails to get one in time. Many are the stories of families having to make do with a seasonal sausage or a festive frittata because the shops were all sold out of turkeys come buying time. Make sure you don't fall fowl. (Gag taken from Santa's Festive Funnies, p10. Others may slip in as we go along. Feel free to appropriate them for your own use around the festive table. Age Times disclaims all responsibility for audience response, however.)
DukesHill gets its Christmas turkeys from poultry farmers who have been in the business for three generations, so they know their gobblegobblers, and animal welfare is a key consideration. A natural grain-based diet is lavished on these birds, and no harmful antibiotics or growth accelerants are permitted. The turkeys are allowed to grow slowly, at their own pace, which is good for the bird and great for their taste.
Note for your diary - the last order date for all DukesHill turkeys is Monday 18th December.
Christmas Free Range Bronze Turkey
These are the dinnertime showstoppers that are what Christmas is all about. DukesHill Free Range Bronze Turkeys come in six weights: 4kg up to 9kg and come complete with giblets, pop-up timer and cooking instructions.
Christmas Free Range Bronze Turkey Crown
When you have a smaller gathering, it makes sense to go for a DukesHill Free Range Bronze Turkey Crown, which is the turkey with its legs and wings removed. So, you still get the impact and the carving caper, but much less waste. DukesHill sells crowns in two weights: 3kg and 5kg.
Stuffed Turkey Breast
This is the ultimate in snag-free serving: the DukesHill Stuffed Turkey Breast is just breast meat, so none of that dark/light meat dilemma. And within the lovely moist breast is a layer of pork and cranberry stuffing. As if that's not enough meaty flavour for your money, each breast joint is covered in DukesHill traditionally cured streaky bacon.
Christmas ham is a must, and ham is where DukesHill started everything off. In 1985, the company began in a shed in Shropshire, producing hams that were soon the toast of gourmets near and far. Even a certain HM The Queen loved DukesHill ham so much that a Royal Warrant was granted to DukesHill in 2003.
Since then, DukesHill has expanded its operation to include all manner of quality foods, but it retains its wish to supply the best hams in the business. Yes, it's quite hambitious. To maintain DukesHill ham quality, only the finest outdoor-bred British pork and own recipe brine are used.
Whole Boneless Cranberry Glazed Ham with Cranberry Stuffing
This is a special edition boneless Wiltshire DukesHill ham joint, with a pork and cranberry stuffing. It boasts a slight sweetness of flavour given by brown sugar added to the soaking brine. It's gently cooked for 12 hours to give a wonderfully tender result. Highly recommended. Also available in half size.
Whole Boneless St George's Ham
Again, we're looking at DukesHill ham, so we know we're in for a treat, but St George's Ham is exceedingly interesting and a great choice for the Christmas table as it is baked in a glaze of orange, cinnamon and cloves. You couldn't ask for a more festive taste array. Also available in midi and half sizes, as well as bone-in and boneless.
Whole Boneless Shropshire Black Ham
Excellent choice for the connoisseur - not for hamateurs. This is a ham of intense flavour and arresting appearance. If you're wondering about how Shropshire Black gets to look so fabulously dark, it's all down to the molasses, juniper berry and spice two-week bath that the ham is given. Traditionally cured and utterly luxurious, it comes in half and midi sizes, too, as well as bone-in options.
Christmas hampers and gifts
DukesHill is rightly renowned for its Christmas hampers - the possibilities it offers are breathtaking. The finest artisan food is packed into quality wicker hampers, ready to delight whole families with the very best hams and other meat, as well as a vast product range of other items. We've picked three of our favourites.
It's a Wonderful Life Christmas Hamper
Here's a hamper that has something for everyone. The It's a Wonderful Life Christmas Hamper includes a boneless Wiltshire ham, as well as Cava, cheeses, smoked salmon, crackers, Christmas pudding, shortbread, and chocolate honeycombs. Everything the Bailey family (and yours) could wish for.
Deck the Halls Christmas Hamper
One of the great things about DukesHill hampers is that they give quality fare, but you don't have to spend a fortune. The Deck the Halls Christmas Hamper is a smaller hamper that succeeds at putting flavour first and foremost. Inside you'll find a delightful product range, including Cava, sables, Christmas pudding and panettone.
Jewel in the Crown Christmas Hamper
When is a hamper not a hamper? When it's a Jewel in the Crown Christmas Hamper, the hamper that's so bountiful that it comes in two hampers. Within, there's a wealth of festive fare, including champagne, port and wines, Wiltshire ham, smoked salmon, sables, chutneys, cheeses, Christmas pudding, Christmas cake, Turkish delight, chocolate, shortbread, mince pies, apricots in amaretto... sorry, we're just going to have to pop to the kitchen.
Christmas cheese and accompaniments
You can't beat a slab of Christmas cheese on a cracker while you enjoy something equally cheesy on the telly. DukesHill's guiding principle of quality first makes its presence felt in all its fabulous cheeses.
Colston Bassett Dairy Quarter Baby Stilton Cheese
If you like cheese that likes putting flavour on your oatcake, then there's only one place to go. Our Colston Bassett Dairy Quarter Baby Stilton Cheese (try saying all that with a mouthful of crackers) is the cheese of champions. It's the cheese other cheeses wish they could be. Smooth, creamy and incredibly flavoursome, it's cut fresh to order and vegetarian friendly too.
Lord London Cheese
No, we hadn't heard of Lord London Cheese either, but you simply have to try it. It's a semi-soft, fabulously fresh-tasting cheese with citrus notes and an amazing mini-teepee appearance. Lived in by Apacheese, we gather.
The very best chutney we have ever tried. Gloriously sweet and sticky, you'll want to eat up this DukesHill Fig Chutney by the spoonful.
Festive puddings and cakes
Christmas pudding is a divisive issue. Not everyone loves it. That's fine - more for us. In any case, DukesHill offers a pudding and cake range that encompasses dessert options that range way beyond the traditional, but with quality always the guiding principle.
So, if you're going to go down the trad route, you have to make sure you think taste, and that's exactly what you get with DukesHill's Christmas Pudding, full to bursting with vine fruits, cherries, French brandy and butter. Wow. Get serving, please.
OK, here's a nice alternative. DukesHill's Lemon Posset is a wonderfully light and zesty creamy dessert made from an old-fashioned English recipe but actually gloriously contemporary in feel. It's a pity not to.
Fig and Nut Panforte
From Italy-way comes this rich fruit and nut Christmas cake. Not often seen on these shores, the Fig and Nut Panforte is a seasonal treat enjoyed in small wedges with a glass of dessert wine or coffee. When in Rome... or Romford, come to that.
It's great to find a supplier that has such a fabulous range of great quality foods on offer that you really can't go wrong, no matter what you choose. Such is the case with DukesHill. It takes the gamble out. Not only are their meats legendary, with the very best hams in particular, but their cheese and pudding selections are real winners too. And don't get us started on the hampers. Let's just say that we know what we're asking Santa for this year.