When I was 12 we moved to Australia. We moved into a quiet suburban street where most of the neighbours kept to themselves. They were civil if you bumped into them but nothing more friendly than that followed. But my mother changed all of that.
She is a ‘people person’ and within days of moving into our new home she had met all of the neighbours, knew the names of their spouses, knew how many children they had and where they went to school and what their husbands did for a living. That was the beginning of October and by December our first Aussie Christmas away from family and friends was approaching.
My mother is an excellent cook and she always had a draw in the kitchen that was full of Christmas recipes. That year she made batch after batch of Whiskey Logs that she decorated with holly made from glace cherries. When they were finished she placed a couple of the logs on coloured card, wrapped them in clear cellophane, tied them with Christmas ribbon and attached a gift tag. The kitchen bench would be full of pretty parcels and my sister and I would be called in and asked to deliver these gifts. They were all for our new neighbours and Em and I would gather the parcels and head out the door to deliver them. And they were all so surprised. It was as if they’d never had a gift from a neighbour before.
And then came Christmas Day. It started early with us being hurried into our ‘Sunday-best’ for church. Everyone went to church including the neighbours. The local church wasn’t far from where we lived so you would think we would be able turn up on time but alas, it seems getting seven people ready on time wasn’t exactly easy. We could have walked to church but we were too late for that mode of transport and so we piled into the car only to arrive and find all parking spaces gone so we were lucky if we could park any closer than our departure point.
On walking into the church the congregation was already standing and singing the first Carol like ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ and we looked along the rows of pews and saw there were no spare seats except for that spare pew right down the front under the nose of the pulpit where no one else wanted to sit.
But with no other option we took the long, long, long walk down the long, long, long aisle and had everyone turn and smile (or giggle) as they saw the unfortunate family having to do the walk of shame.
After the service everyone greeted the minister then headed for home because turkeys were in the oven and needed supervision. We however, had our turkey still in the fridge because coming from the cooler climate of New Zealand and not yet acclimatised to the heat, we couldn’t face eating a hot roast meal in the heat of the day and so we had our Christmas dinner planned for the cool of the evening.
Planning ahead, this created a terrific opportunity for my mother because with no middle-of-the-day cooking scheduled she had earlier phoned the neighbours and invited them over for Christmas drinks. And this was a novelty for all the neighbours who apparently had never had this much generosity extended to them. So straight after church the neighbours descended on our house and champagne was poured and the beers were flowing and the record player was belting out carols from the Kings College Choir and all the food was handmade and lovingly prepared.
This was an outdoor event with everyone enjoying the peak of the summer sunshine and most of the us, the teenagers, would soon be in the pool swanning around on some new flotation device found earlier that day in a Christmas stocking.
We made friends that first Aussie Christmas with our neighbours who became lifelong friends who despite these days having all moved away from that very special street, are still very much in touch.
I like to think these Christmas Whiskey Logs bestowed as a loving gift, have something to do with it.
Christmas Whiskey Logs
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: Not a huge expense. These are actually a great way to use up leftover dried fruits used to make Christmas cakes and puddings.
- 400g plain biscuits
- 125g butter, chopped
- 1 cup icing sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup whiskey
- 100gm chocolate chips
- 100gm glace cherries, halved plus a few extra to make holly
- 200gm dried fruit
- 200gm dark chocolate
Crush biscuits and set aside.
Beat butter and sugar until pale and creamy and mix in egg, whiskey, biscuits, chocolate, cherries and dried fruit.
Roll into 6 evenly sized logs, wrap in glad wrap and refrigerate for a few hours.
Melt dark chocolate using a double boiler and cover each log in chocolate. Allow to cool and set in the fridge. Note: I find it easier to coat the top, sides and ends of the logs first, the place on baking paper, put in the fridge until the chocolate has set, then remove from the fridge and turn upside down to coat the under-side of the logs.
To serve, cut into slices with a hot knife.
For a gift, wrap in clear cellophane and tie with ribbon.