It’s Winter Solstice – the darkest time of the year. A bit like the arrival of the longest day in what feels like still early summer, the Winter Solstice often takes me by surprise at how early it seems to arrive.

From this point on, the days, in the Northern Hemisphere, will get longer. And yet as we know, the cold days of January and February are still to come. But there will be more light to navigate our way through.

It always fills me with cheer to think that deep underground there is life being created, ready for the spring, just that we can’t see it yet.

Our ancestors would have put out the solstice fire on this night and waited for a light from the communal fire to be brought back. That absence of light and warmth would have been a stark reminder of how little stood between them and the elements. It’s not often that we are reminded of that these days in our lives of relative comfort.

Winter Solstice is a time for gathering, for renewing our connection with nature and with our communities. It is the time that in the legends the Holly King, ruler of the autumn and winter, is defeated and the Oak King, ruler of spring and summer wins through and begins to build his strength.

I wanted to share my family’s traditional gift at this time of the year – Hawthorn Berry Brandy. I usually make enough that I can open some over the Christmas holidays but keep the bulk of it until next winter when the flavours will have mellowed.

This is a great winter tonic for our elders – care though for those taking heart medication because we use hawthorn berries to reduce blood pressure taken regularly and under supervision.

Hawthorn Berry Brandy


  • 1/3 kilner jar hawthorn berries
  • 1/3 kilner jar muscovado sugar
  • 2 sticks of cinnamon
  • Zest of 2 organic oranges
  • 1 litre bottle of brandy

Flatten the berries under the blade of a large knife to break the skins and then add them to the jar. Pour the sugar over, then the brandy ensuring everything is covered. Add the cinnamon and orange zest and stir well. Stir daily for a week, every week for a month, and monthly thereafter. This brandy only gets better with age and a great traditional tipple to toast the Winter Solstice with friends.