Thursday, December 30, 2010

A 'wassailing into 2011!!...or... so long 2010!!

And so another year comes to a close....and it's time to make a Wassail Bowl.This is a traditional English drink partaken of at Christmas, New Years and sometimes in mid-January which can be traced back to as early as the 14 century. The name derives from the Old English "Wes hal" meaning "be in good health" and the wassail bowl was passed around from friend to friend and house to house to ensure everyone's good health for the coming year. Many times pieces of toast were floated in the wassail too...which is apparently where to "toast" someone with a drink came from. Apple Trees were also 'wassailed' with the same drink made from cider, usually around January 17th which was the old 12th night...it being sprinkled around the roots to ensure a good crop the following season whilst the villagers would make a charivari with pots and pans to awake the Sleeping Tree Spirit and scare way demons and deposit toast among the branches (?). Here is the song that is sung as the custom is enacted...it faded into obscurity there for a while but is now being revived - YEA!!!:

Old apple tree, we wassail thee,
And hoping thou wilt bear
For the Lord doth know where we shall be
Till apples come another year.
For to bear well, and to bear well
So merry let us be.
Let every man take off his hat,
And shout to the old apple tree!
Old apple tree, we wassail thee,
And hoping thou wilt bear
Hatfuls, capfuls, three bushel bagfuls
And a little heap under the stairs
Hip! Hip! Horray!
THE RECIPE: Read through first to make your decisions on how much of everything to put in...
3 small hard apples roasted 'til they burst and fluff...about 45 minutes in a 425F oven but check regularly the time will vary greatly with the type and size of the apple.
I would actually use 6 apples...see below

4 1/2 cups ale (or hard cider which I would use next time)...I choose one that wasn't too hoppy but whatever you are fond of...this equals about 4 bottles of beer.
1 cinnamon stick (I would now use 2...see below why)
3 crushed cardamom pods (I would now use 6)
1 whole freshly grated nutmeg...maybe 1/2 as much again of you like nutmeg
3 tablespoons honey( now I would use 4 tablespoons - I used Green Hive Raw Honey from Camden, Maine as I was given a Christmas gift of 5lbs by the lovely owners Magy and Clay King)
a goodly 2 inches of fresh ginger, grated (now I would use 3")
 4 strips of lemon peel
juice of one lemon (I would now use 2)
juice of one tangerine...not traditional but tangerines are so associated with Christmas and this time of the year I thought "Why not?"...now I would use 2
2 tablespoons sugar (now I would use 4)
scant 2/3 cup heavy/double cream
2 egg yolks

Warm the bowl you will be serving the wassail from...have ladle at hand...
1. Whip cream, sugar and yolks til thick but not solid, set aside
2. Pour chosen ale into stainless steel pan and add spices, honey and juices.
3. Bring almost to a simmer.
3. Take off the heat, strain to remove all the pods etc. and whisk in the cream mixture.
5. Pour into pre-heated bowl and add the apples...as I say below I would leave 3 apples whole and actually mash the fluff of 3 apples and add to hot ale as apple sauce to increase apple-iness of drink...now that I have hindsight!!!
6. You can keep the drink warm but don't allow to boil at the cream and egg mix will curdle...yikes!!

I have to be brutally honest here and say I have had my eye on this concept for quite the many years now and was intrigued by the idea of heating ale (or hard cider which I SHOULD have used in retrospect as I think I would have preferred that flavour and using it is not untraditional), adding spices, roasting apples, whipping cream and egg yolks and blending them all together into what I thought would be a divine adult beverage...alas it was not the flavour I thought it was going to be...it wasn't as sweet, lemony, spicy or appley as I thought but if you like ale and hops then you're in for a treat. If I made this again I would use hard cider (I prefer the taste) more apples, 2 lemons, 2 more tablespoons of honey and twice the spices...but I do like my drinks very drinkable if you know what I mean, more like nice fruit juice...wimpy moi...and this was definitely a more mature flavour many an ale drinker would be thrilled with the imbibing of......


The ingredients and finished Wassail Bowl aka Lamb's Wool....the name deriving from the fluffy pulp of the roasted apples...which in this particular case did not fall apart and fluff around on the top of the drink as I think it probably should have done....actually it could have done with more apples I think and maybe pulp some of them into the drink and leave some whole like here...ah well...next New Year's Eve!!


 An intriguing look don't ya think...actually it looks like a cup of tea with an apple in it!!

 The last couple of days have been cold enough to make ice shapes with various bowls, berries and dried out Pee Gee hydrangea flowers I have saved from this autumn. Earlier on, in another recent cold snap, I got very tricky and decided to try and make an ice wreath with glitter glue but that wasn't successful as I found out that the glue changes the consistency of the water and it makes it all bubbly, wrinkly and unattractive...not at all like the picture in my mind!!! Schucks!! I wanted to create a Buddha Ice Shrine out in the woods...which I did just a couple of hours ago...the Buddha face in repose was sculpted by James for Metaphor Bronze with the intention of making solid bronze plaques from the mold...isn't it beautiful??
The finished ice shrine glowing in the woods...by this point I was freezing and ready to come in and make my Lamb's Wool to warm me back up.

 Images of New Year's Eve Eve
 I do hope this next year brings you and yours prosperity, peace and much happiness.
Happy 2011
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