Tuesday, December 25, 2007


To all spending time with family and other loved ones during the December holidays, enjoy! I drink a toast to my friends and anyone who has found their way here in 2007 and hope you will come again in 2008. Wassail, Wassail!

I would like to share my favorite carol, which dates back to the Middle Ages and celebrates the tradition of wassailing. The names of cows (Dobbin, Cherry, Fillpail) and their body parts (eye, cheek, ear) refers to the custom of walking the animals in a ring or through two small bopnfires, and splashing cups of cider on their heads to bless them an thank them for providing milk. Likewise, people would bless their apple and fruit trees with a splash of cider, usually the morning of winter solstice.

Years ago I spent Yule with friends in the Berkshires who had an all-night candlelight vigil, with songs and stories, with a trip around the orchards in the morning to wassail the trees. I hope to reinvigorate this custom in coming years, as we're planting wo apple trees in our yard in the spring.

Gloucestershire Wassail

Wassail, Wassail, all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown,
Our boel it is made of the white maple tree
With the wassailing bowl we'll drink to thee.

So here is to Cherry and to his right cheek
Pray God send our master a good piece of beef
And a good piece of beef that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee

And here is to Dobbin and to his right eye
Pray God send our master a good Christmas pie
A good Christmas pie that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee

So here is to Broad Mary and to her broad horn
May God send our master a good crop of corn
And a good crop of corn that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee

And here is to Fillpail and to her left ear
Pray God send our master a happy New Year
And a happy New Year as e'er he did see
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee

And here is to Colly and to her long tail
Pray God send our master he never may fail
A bowl of strong beer! I pray you draw near
And our jolly wassail it's then you shall hear

Come butler, come fill us a bowl of the best
Then we hope that your soul in heaven may rest
But if you do draw us a bowl of the small
Then down shall go butler, bowl and all

Then here's to the maid in the lily white smock
Who tripped to the door and slipped back the lock
Who tripped to the door and pulled back the pin
For to let these jolly wassailers in.

And, from History.uk.com a recipe for you to try:

A Traditional Shropshire Wassail Recipe – for hardened Wassailers!

10 very small apples
1 large orange stuck with whole cloves
10 teaspoons brown sugar
2 bottles dry sherry or dry Madeira
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3 cloves
3 allspice berries
2 or 3 cinnamon sticks
2 cups castor sugar
12 to 20 pints of cider according to the number of guests
1 cup (or as much as you like) brandy

Core the apples and fill each with a teaspoon of brown sugar. Place in a baking pan and cover the bottom with 1/8-inch of water.

Insert cloves into the orange about 1/2" apart.
Bake the orange with the apples in a 350° oven.
After about 30 minutes, remove the orange and puncture it in several places with a fork or an ice pick.

Combine the sherry or Madeira, cider, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice berries, cinnamon, sugar, apple and orange juice and water in a large, heavy saucepan and heat slowly without letting the mixture come to a boil.
Leave on very low heat.
Strain the wine mixture and add the brandy.

Pour into a metal punch bowl, float the apples and orange on top and ladle hot into punch cups.

Makes enough for 15-20 people – but we always wish we had made more!


JLB said...

Thanks so much for the recipe! :D

Peg said...

Here is a shortcut recipe, too:

Heat apple cider gently with mulling spices (or cinammon, nutmegm allspice in a tea ball). Float small apples (Lady apples if you can get them) and orange and lemon slices in about an hour before serving. Add Guinness or other bottled stout (foaming or not) just before serving. Some brandy may also be added...