In this week’s By Thistle, By Thimble, journeyman fruit growers flock to Mr. Dorsett’s orchard to learn the secret of his abundant apple crop. No one finds anything unusual, but, unbeknownst to them, Mr. Dorsett performs a secret blessing on a special winter’s night—a blessing that was taught to him long ago by an apple tree elf, who resides in the orchard still.
Blessing apple trees on Twelfth Night is an old custom. Traditionally, revelers would make cups of wassail or lambswool—spiced cider or ale—and cover them with a bit of toast to keep the drink warm. A slosh of the wassail would then be poured on the apple trees to bless them for the coming year. Bits of the cider soaked toast would be left for the birds.
If you, too, are grateful for a beautiful apple harvest this year, why not make up a pot of wassail for your family?
The recipe below is enough to serve a party of revelers, but it can easily be halved or quartered. It’s also much more method than recipe, so feel free to modify it to suit your tastes or what you have on hand.
While wassail was traditionally an alcoholic beverage, I recommend making this without so that the kiddos can enjoy too. It’s easy enough for the grown-ups to add a bit of bourbon or ale to their own individual cups.
Twelfth Night Wassail
16 cups (1 gallon) apple cider
4 cups orange or cranberry juice
½ cup lemon juice
¼ cup honey
8 cinnamon sticks
2 Tablespoons whole cloves
1 tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp cardamon
Mix all the ingredients in a large stockpot. Heat gently, stirring occasionally. Don’t allow the wassail to boil. Ladle into cups, and garnish with slices of apple.
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The Sparkle Kitchen Series is a collaboration with Meryl Carver-Allmond. Meryl writes about chickens, babies, knitting, gardening, food, photography, and whatever else tickles her fancy on any given day at her blog, My Bit of Earth.