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By Lea Harris

What is she wittering about I hear you say. Those who know me understand that I like the weird, wonderful and long forgotten customs of our land. Wassail or 'wes hal' is Old English for 'be of good health'. So what is it?  Two things - an appley, hot mulled beer and the old tradition wassailing trees in the orchard on the twelve days of Christmas to ensure a good crop of apples in the coming year. Everyone would gather round the most prolific tree, making as much noise as possible, banging pans, firing shotguns to wake the tree spirit and drive out the bad demons. Wassail was poured round the roots and a piece of toast soaked in the toddy was placed in the fork of the tree; a toast to the tree was made by everyone present and the Wassail Song was sung.


Apples are so common place these days, I thought it would be fitting to celebrate a much maligned fruit. This time of year you will find imports from far shores, but look out for British Coxes and Russets; packed full of flavour, they are perfect for the recipe below.  Use whichever beer you like, but ideally it should be a dark beer or you could replace the ale with cider. And if you hear a racket coming from someone's garden on Twelfth Night (6th January), it could be me wassailing my apple trees!



3 apples

3tbls light muscavado sugar

½ teacup brown ale

2pts your favourite dark beer

½ pt sweet sherry

¼ tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger

Thin strip lemon rind





   1. Slit apples round the middle, bake in oven with sugar and ½ teacup brown ale, and baste well until apples are soft.

   2. Heat the 2 pints of your favourite beer (I like Black Isle's Knicker Dropper Glory) along with the sherry, spices and lemon. Simmer for 5 mins.

   3. Remove the soft apple flesh, pop into to pan and stir. Add more sugar to taste.

   4. Serve very hot with any mince pies or Christmas cake lurking after the festivities or with Twelfth Night Cake




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