Last Christmas we saw Ginger flavoured drinks gain favour with Marks & Spencer seeing sales of Ginger Wine and Ginger Beer up 20% and the launch of new Gingerbread Rum and Gingerbread Cream Liqueur. You may have also spotted Gingerbread Houses at Aldi last December – which sold like hot cakes. According to statistics, exports of Root Ginger from India have gone up by 76% year on year and this year it appears that retailers have caught on to the fact that Ginger is enjoying a renaissance.
This September John Crabbie & Co announced 2 new flavours: Scottish Raspberry with Ginger and Lemonade with Ginger and Bulmers have launched a new Ginger Cider in Australia. Procter’s Sausages produced the prized Champion ‘Essex Sausage’ based on a traditional recipe with Ginger and Mace flavourings running through it and Ginger Honey is now on sale at Morrisons.
For Christmas 2012 the Bakers and Patissiers Just Desserts have created a Fever Tree Ginger Beer Cheesecake and Sainsbury's have a Gingerbread Man Chocolate Cake as well as Gingerbread Dough Blocks (as do Tesco) and a Make Your Own Gingerbread House Kit (easier said than done!).
Hansel and Gretel
It's thought that Gingerbread Houses became popular in Germany after the Brothers Grimm published their book of fairy tales which included "Hansel and Gretel" in 1812 but it's probable that Gingerbread Houses were being made long before this. In the 1600s Nuremberg in Germany, became known as the Gingerbread capital, thanks to the elaborate Gingerbread scenes, animals and figures – often decorated with gold leaf – made by the bakers of the city.
Queen Victoria, and her German-born husband Prince Albert, brought Gingerbread into fashion when they included it in with the other German Christmas traditions they adopted, like the Christmas tree, back in the 19th century. However Gingerbread has been popular in the UK since the 15th century. Many English villages had a tradition of young women eating Gingerbread men, or “husbands,” to ensure that they would soon be married. Often towns would have a Gingerbread fair – Market Drayton in Shropshire, is still famous for it, as is proudly displayed on their town’s welcome sign.
There are plenty of Gingerbread recipes for Christmas around: Jamie Oliver's Gingerbread and Sherry Trifle and Nigella Lawson's Gingerbread Stuffing but I really like the one for Gingerbread and Lime Cheesecake over at BBC GoodFood. I've simplified the recipe here and you can use Gingerbread Dough to make the base or crunch up Ginger Biscuits.
225g Ginger biscuits or Gingerbread - crushed
115g butter - melted
300g full fat soft cream cheese
250ml double cream
2 limes - juice and zest
4 tbsp Ginger syrup (you can buy stem Ginger in ginger syrup and use the stem Ginger to decorate the dish)
Crumble up the Gingerbread and mix with melted butter, then press hard into the base of a ring mould. Pop into the fridge to chill for an hour. Whip the cream and mix in the cream cheese, ginger syrup and lime juice. Add the stem ginger and lime zest. Spoon onto the Gingerbread base and spread. Place in the fridge for a couple of hours until firm.
Enjoy with sparkling wines that are aromatic, crisp and palate cleansing or dessert wines that are honeyed, spicy and rich. My choice would be a dry Cremant d'Alsace or Sauternes as they work well with pepper, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Cava and late harvest Riesling or Ice Wine are also good pairings.