There were just three of us wassailing my apple tree this year - me, my husband, and my cat Tommy. In bygone years I've invited a party of people to sing good health in my garden and share a bowl of drink. I hope to do so again in the future, but it hasn't seemed so wise to do that in plague years.
However, having got a new wassail bowl just before Yule, I was keen to try it. I also experimented with a traditional recipe for lambswool punch that I haven't made before. Usually I mull cider, which is one of my favourite warming beverages, but thought it was time I did something different.
A bottle of real ale
A large bramley cooking apple
1/3 of a nutmeg freshly grated
1/3 tsp ground ginger (I used a little more than that)
50g brown sugar
You core the apple, slice it around the middle then put it on a baking tray and cook it in a cool oven (gas mark 1) for an hour. You then let it cool a bit while you put the sugar in a saucepan and cover that with a little ale. When the sugar has dissolved you stir in the spices, then add the rest of the ale and heat gently for 10 minutes. Scoop the apple pulp out of its skin and add it to the ale mixture. Keep it warming on a gentle heat for 30 minutes. Whisk it before serving for a frothy top - the reason it's called lambswool. I used an old hand whisk and it didn't foam much - I think a electric whisk or even a food processor would do better.
The Apple Tree Wassail
Old apple tree, we'll wassail thee,
And hoping thou wilt bear.
The Gods do know where we shall be
In merry another year.
To blow well and to bear well,
And so merry let us be;
Let every person drink their cup
And health to the apple tree.
We then shared some of the punch and I have to say it was very nice. It was appley but with a nutty taste. I could happily have drunk all of it, but in the nature of the custom I got a share, my husband got a share and the rest of it was given to the tree. I hope our offering and wishes of good health will produce a good crop of fruit.
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