Decorative Dried Orange Slices
The swans are a-swimming and the geese are a-laying, and despite the fact that the big brands have been talking about Christmas since mid-September, I don't truly start to feel Christmassy until much later in November / early December after I conduct the same annual rituals and traditions at home.
After opening the first door of my advent calendar, hearing the first Christmas carol, and making the journey to our local Christmas farm to collect our tree, I begin to immerse myself into the festive spirit and embrace this magical time of year.
One habit I picked up a few years ago and have now added to the list of rituals, is to make a small batch of dried orange slices and use them as decorations around the house and on the tree. They're so simple to make, and not only are they eco-friendly and beautiful, but they will fill my home with the most incredible citrus fragrance that lasts for days to come.
And so, I'll pop on a festive jumper, tune into some Christmassy music, pour myself a warming brew and create some magic.
To get started, grab a bag of oranges (any will do - I like to find a bargain bag at the end of the shopping day) and slice them up into roughly 1-2cm slices. Place them onto a metal rack above a baking tray (through trial and error I've learned this is important as it lets the air circulate around the slices nicely so they won't stick) and set your oven to a low heat - approx 120C should be fine.
Patience is the key here. You'll need to turn your slices every 30-45 minutes to ensure they don't burn, and they can take a few hours in the oven. Just monitor them regularly and when you think they've dried sufficiently, remove them and leave them to cool for a little while.
Once cooled, grab some twine, string or ribbons, make a hole through the top and tie. In previous years I've dotted in some cloves into the orange flesh to make little patterns, or tied them up with a bunch of cinnamon sticks. They also look lovely in large bowls mixed in with pine cones, walnuts and cinnamon sticks - place them next to a woodburner or open hearth and the smell should permeate your room throughout the festive lead up, making you feel Chirstmassy every time you enter it.