Last Saturday, a beautiful day despite the chilly temperatures, the Wassail Master and his Minstrel lead a procession of over 40 people through the common, arriving at the orchard to toast the trees. A sight that could not be missed, children and grownups dressed in bright colours, disguised in masks crafted from twigs and leaves, singing, making noise and storytelling returning to the Vine Road Pavilion to warm up with a glass of mulled cider (or juice).
It was wonderful to see so many happy faces enjoying this community event, hopefully there will be plenty of fruit this Autumn!
A Wassail is an ancient rural English celebration giving fruit growers and pickers the opportunity to drink to the good health of their fruit trees and to an abundant crop in the coming year. It also brings light, noise, laughter and cheer to the longer, darker winter months.
If you attended and didn’t have a chance to fill in our survey, we would very much appreciate your feedback here.
Several participants have asked us for Mike’s spiced apple juice recipe, so here it is.
For approximately 3 litres of spiced apple juice:
- 3 litres of apple juice (for this quantity you will need a 4 or 5 litre pan)
- 1 sweet orange
- About 40 cloves
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- About 1 cubic inch of fresh ginger root
- One or two sachets of wine mulling spices
Cut orange in half and lightly squeeze some juice into the pan. Then push about 20 cloves into each half – near the rim (so they will stay submerged) – add to pan.
Peel and Slice the ginger root so it releases plenty of flavour
Add cinnamon stick and sachet to the pot
Pour in the apple juice at any time.
Bring to just under boiling, then turn down heat and keep it hot but not boiling (about 80 degrees C, 180F) with the lid on for at least one hour so the spices have time to mellow.
Mike says: I usually find the mix a little strong so dilute with about 0.5l of water but this is a matter of taste. Likewise I usually find the apple juice sweet enough, but if not you can add a little sugar to taste.
For mulled cider, the spices are the same but substitute cider for most of the apple juice (substitute say 2l or 2.5l but do keep some apple juice – it adds to the flavour and provides some sweetness). A splash of brandy and of calvados both help give the brew a good added dimension. I usually find it helps to add a large spoonful or two of sugar (to taste) and add/dilute with about 0.5 L of water. Any cider will do – but I try to mix the stiller, cloudier scrumpy style (such as Rosie’s) with some of the clearer, bubblier variety.
Although some of the alcohol will evaporate off , bear in mind that cider is typically 5 or 6 percent alcohol so the brew can be quite potent. Try to avoid boiling as this loses alcohol fast as well as adding more bitter notes to the taste.
Nothing in these recipes is fixed – it is all a matter of personal taste and what is available. Enjoy!
Thanks to Andrew Wilson for the fantastic photos!