I write this week’s installment, Dear Reader, with a slightly (understatement of the year) sore head. Christmas party season arrived and Margot’s Christmas simply wouldn’t be complete without a little glug of wine or two. In the case of Margot’s more recent past, rather a few too many gin fizzes and a smoking bishop! More on that in a mo….. This year, I threw in some wassailing for good measure too! An old custom associated with Christmas and in particular Twelfth Night, wassailing has been around since the 15th century. ‘Wes Hael’ (‘be well’ or ‘be healthy’ in Anglo Saxon I believe) is a way of wishing good health to family and friends. Definitely something Margot would be interested in at this time of year! It is also an ancient ritual that includes a good old shout at some trees (usually apple trees to be a touch more precise). It was believed that wassailing the trees in one’s orchard thanked the trees for the year’s crop and ensured a bountiful crop for the year to come. A ceremonial slosh of mulled cider was poured on to the roots of the tree and a wassailing song was sung to keep evil spirits from harming the tree until a good harvest was brought in the following year. In the spirit of old things country, I did my bit and wassailed my ‘orchard’ of 1 pear, 1 cherry (this year’s crop was used in a new gin recipe) and 1 fig tree. I donned a green scarf (a nod to the Greene man, usually the master of wassailing ceremonies) and enjoyed a little sing song of a few Cole Porter numbers. Goodness only knows what the neighbours thought of the crazy woman singing in the garden, dousing a libation of sloe gin fizz on a piddly tree with a green scarf over her head (it was raining, Dear Reader, and I had just had my hair blow dried). Let’s hope I get a good crop of cherries and pears next year. I fancy trying my hand at making some perry! I love the thought that all over the cider making countiesof England, country folk are still keeping this amazing tradition alive! I shall continue to do my bit and ‘wassail’ throughout the 12 days of Christmas…what a fabulous excuse for a little tipple! If you should manage a little wassailing of your own, do have a go at one of my sloe gin fizzes. Wassailing won’t seem silly at all once you have had a few of these!
Sloe Gin Fizz
1 part sloe gin (homemade of course)
3 parts Prosecco or English Sparkling wine (no need to use your best Bolly for this one)
a handful of pomegranate seeds
Gin in first, then top up with fizz. Sprinkle in the seeds. Delish!
or perhaps an old fashioned take on Mulled Wine found in Anne Cobbett’s The English Housekeeper (1842)
‘Boil cinnamon, grated nutmeg, cloves or mace in a quarter of a pint of water. Add a pint of port and some sugar to taste.’ Boil for a few minutes.
Until Christmas Day itself, I have imposed prohibition on myself as I imbibed rather a lot with some dear festive chums, Holly and Ivy. It must have been a good party as my head still hurts days later. Apparently, the hostess was on top form dishing out cocktails, donning a fur coat, having a little dance before an awful incident with the kitchen sink, going up to bed (very worse for wear) leaving guests to fend for themselves, blow out candles, turn off lights etc before letting themselves out……. Most certainly NOT Margot’s finest hour I don’t mind telling you, Dear Reader! Dearest Holly and lovely Ivy, a BIG thank you to you for saving the cottage from fire and for very generously forgiving a drunken old Christmas bird for seriously bad hostessing! I promise to be the last man standing on our next ‘Wes Hael’ jaunt. In the meantime dear Reader, I shall stick to a festive cuppa until my aching head subsides! Have a wonderfully fabulous Christmas and ‘Wes Hael’ to all of you and yours!