January 15, 2010

There are a lot of wassailing festivals going on this weekend, especially at cideries.

According to Ben Watson in Cider Hard and Sweet, page 137 reads, “… wassail derives from the old Anglo-Saxon toast, Waes haeil, meaning, ‘Be whole’ [well]. It’s like saying, “To your health,” and it gave its name to the custom that took place throughout Britain around Christmastime, when revelers carried a wassail bowl made of ash or maple and festooned with ribbons from house to house, expecting the bowl to be filled with refreshments and in turn blessing the occupants. The traditional wassail punch is made from ale and sherry, sugar and spices….

However, there is a second definition of wassailing, which is a kind of blessing of the apple trees for the coming year, especially in England, which usually takes place on January 17 as the Old Twelfth Night. Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse on Vancouver Island, BC, describes the core ritual, “Intended to awaken the orchard from its winter slumber, the trees are blessed for an abundant harvest.  Cider is poured over the roots of one of the orchard trees, and toast is hung in the branches by a Wassail “King” and “Queen” while traditional songs are sung with much noisemaking and merriment to ward off bad spirits.

More Information on Wassailing:

Places Participating in Wassailing:

  • Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse: January 16, 2010, 11am-6pm, Saanichton, BC.
  • Finnriver Farm – Old Time Cider says, “Sunday, January 17th Time: 2:00pm-4:00pm Location: Finnriver Farm Received the above in an email from the Finnriver mailing list.”
  • In the UK

Ben Watson’s Cider Wassail Bowl (adapted)

½ gallon sweet cider
½ cup dark brown sugar
10 – 15 allspice berries
8-10 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 whole nutmeg, cracked in half
Pinch of salt
1 cup dark rum
¼ cup calvados or other apple brandy (optional)
1 lemon, halved and sliced thin
1 or 2 oranges, halved and sliced thin

In a large pot, mix cider and sugar. Place spices in a square cheesecloth and tie up like a tea bag before adding it to the pot with salt. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 15 minutes, and then remove from heat.

Remove the spice bag and add rum, optional brandy, and lemon and orange slices. Place over medium heat and stir for 2 to 3 minutes before serving. It is also good with whipped cream.


One Response to “Wassailing”

  1. […] this coming weekend. Simply put, wassailing is a kind of festival of sorts blessing apple trees. I wrote up a blog last winter on the topic, including some recipes. Strangely, for all the things poured on an apple tree for […]

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