Wassail! Wassail! over the town,
Our toast is white, our ale is brown:
Our bowl is made of the Maplin tree,
We be good fellows all; I drink to thee ~
And so, another Winter Solstice awaits us around the bend ~ this year, it is my sincere wish that each of you who are reading this are warm, healthy, & in the company of creatures whom you love & who love you. May those creatures be people, plant, animal, or otherwise. May they surround you as light does to the candle flame, & wrap soft-sweetly about you as Cinnamon does coat the tongue.
And what then is a Wassail? It is a toast, a toast to your health & a toast to the trees & a special drink to sip upon to honor one another. Wassail comes from the Middle English waes haeil which translates to, "be thou well". There is Christmas carol lore woven throughout the Wassailing tradition, but it is also much older than that & as I mentioned, all begins & ends, with the trees.
I will tell more about the trees in a moment, but first let me share this recipe with you, a recipe in two parts ~
Part One: Roasted Apples for your Wassail Bowls
You will need:
12 apples -- Crab apples are best, but any small apple will do
2 tablespoons of honey or sugar
1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F
2) Core your dozen apples
3) Place in a low baking pan & cover with your honey/sugar
4) Add about 2 tablespoons of water to the bottom of your pan
5) Bake for 1/2 hour or so, until the apples are soft but not mushy!
6) Set aside
Part Two: The Wassail Bowl
You will need:
1 gallon of good Apple cider
1/2 cup of honey (though dark brown sugar is traditional)
1 heaping tablespoon of freshly grated Ginger
1 heaping tablespoon of Hawthorn berries
1 tablespoon of whole Cloves
4-6 Cinnamon sticks
1/2 teaspoon of Nutmeg
1 tablespoon of Cardamom pods
3 drops of your favorite tree essence
2 cups of good dark rum
2 lemon, cut into thin slices & halved
Cheesecloth or muslin bag
1) Place cider + honey in a large pot
2) Tie all your herbs (Ginger, Hawthorn, Cloves, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, & Cardamom) into the muslin bag or cheesecloth
3) Add your herb bundle into the cider & honey pot
4) Bring to a boil & simmer on low for 20ish minutes
5) Remove your herb bundle
6) Add in the rum, 3 drops of your favorite tree essence, & lemon slices
7) Simmer for about 10 more minutes
8) Pour into a lovely bowl, or leave in the pot
9) Add your roasted apples into the bowl or pot & let them float in the Wassail
10) Serve hot & delight in this brew with your loved ones & your favorite trees, fruiting or otherwise
Now for the trees:
Wassaile the trees, that they may beare
You many a Plum & many a Peare:
For more or lesse fruits they will bring,
As you do give them Wassailing.
As you may have noticed, much of this recipe involves ingredients from the trees: Apples, Hawthorn, Nutmeg, Lemons...
Wassailing was a practice of honoring the trees that bear us such wonderful, nourishing fruits, medicines, & shade. Dear harbingers of each season are the trees, & so we offer a little toast to these wonderful oracles, divine providers, oxygen makers, beautiful homes for the birds & insects...
Be sure to set aside enough of your Wassailing mix to soak a few pieces of toast in. Get them good & soaked, then parade out to your favorite trees (fruit bearing, medicine offering, or simply growing) & offer at the base of each tree a piece of your soaked toast, singing a song to them that you know & then reciting a prayer of gratitude. For your inspiration, a traditional version goes something like this:
Here's to thee, old (name of) tree,
That blooms well, bears well.
Hats full, caps full,
Three bushel bags full,
An' all under one tree.
Happy Solstice my friends, Merry Wassailing, be thou hale ~