The 17th of January is the traditional twelfth night. In gratitude for last years crops, in hope for the coming season and at a loss for something better to do, we decided on a special, Peckham style wassail on the more convenient 16th. Awkwardly, we have never wassailed before, which is why, my friends, we decided to do a bit of googling, then make it up as we went along. Despite the distinct absence of apple trees within drum carrying distance, we decided it was perfectly acceptable to include any convenient fruit trees and hedgerows in our plans . With sufficient wassail toasts, anything is possible, and despite the risk of our mental health being put into question, spirits boosted using only the power of cider and self-belief, we lit our lanterns and lifted our drums for the amble through the park.
Hailing the plum tree (compote, jam,chutney brandied plums) in st georges way for starters we moved along to Sues special cherry, a hazel and her friends ( mirabelles, sloes, crabapples, rosehips, hawthorn, nuts) and the big old plum tree at Derwent Wharf, site of the new Burgess Food Project community garden, which we toasted with mulled cider. By this time the light had faded and it was starting to drizzle. The papier mache lanterns dissolved. We did the thing with the cider and the toast, except someone (me, but I managed to pass the buck rather convincingly I thought) had forgotten to bring the toast. I wittered on about robins like a twerp, while Ruby made an excellent job of the cider sprinkling. Several members of Bloco Maluco, our local samba band and our gung-ho wassailers enlivened proceedings no end with some exuberant percussion, and the wassailing song of endless verses was sung with all the gusto and abandon we could manage between us. Nobody was arrested.
On the 17th, the real twelfth night, I had a little private wassail in my back garden, where I went out late at night and alarmed my cherry tree with Blur and the Watersons, dangled toast and sprinkled cider and tried not to make too much noise with my drum, while feeling marginally less like a lemon than the night before. The neighbourhood dogs joined in and between us i think we managed to wake a few trees up. In retrospect, it might have been wise to inform the neighbours of my plans. If you have a fruit tree, find a way to say thank you.
WASSAIL MULLED CIDER.
Cooking apples x 4
Brown sugar to taste
Apple juice, preferably pressed, but concentrate will do. 1 or 2 litres to taste.
Stick of cinnamon, pinch of nutmeg, 2 cloves and some ginger.
Cider, 2 litres.
Roast your apples for 45 minutes or so in a hot oven, together with the spices and sugar and a splash of water. when they are cooked, press them through a seive into a large pan. add to this as much apple juice as you like. heat until simmering, turn down heat and add cider. keep warm but do not boil.