Robert and I are attending CiderCon2015, being held next month in Chicago. Yes, this conference is so good that we are willing to brave a Chicago winter, again. Last year the weather was miserable. Let's get together for a glass of goodness if you are attending.
Wassailing the orchard trees
You may have heard the carol "Here we come a wassailing" but do you know the traditional meaning of wassailing? The word itself comes from an old Saxon phrase for "be thou hale," while the English traditions around wassailing probably pre-date Christian times. The more familiar tradition is of peasants caroling at the feudal manor and receiving a hot cider drink from a communal wassail bowl.
The winter skies in Torrey on a clear night are worth bundling up for!
But in western England, wassailing also takes place in the cider orchards. Crowds gather on the 12th night of Christmas to awaken the apple trees with songs, banging drums and pots and pans, and general merriment. Sometimes a wassail Queen is chosen to place a cider-soaked bread crust onto an apple tree branch. In the coldest, darkest winter nights, the trees are thanked for the previous harvest and encouraged to produce again with songs like:
Old apple tree we wassail thee
And hoping thou will bear
Hat fulls, cap fulls, three bushel bag fulls
And a little heap under the stairs
Orchard wassailing is becoming popular again in the UK. Any excuse for a party, right? The Guardian published an interesting account of a 2010 celebration. Ciderists have their quirky traditional streaks—the wassail happens on January 17, the 12th night of Christmas according to the calendar before Georgian reforms (of 1752!)
Here at Stray Arrow Ranch we got to it a little late, but we got it done on a frosty clear night. We sang and shouted and otherwise exhorted the trees to grow well come spring Someday we hope to turn this into an event with bonfires and revelry to break up the long Torrey winter.
In the glass: Norman the Elder
Not much is happening in the orchard right now. While the trees are dormant, we are playing in the kitchen. Riffing off the French 75 champagne cocktail one evening, R and I invented a cider-based concoction I call "Norman the Elder." We start with a dry cider-Normandy's traditional bubbly. St. Germain liquor adds intriguing elderflower aromatic notes and a touch of sweetness. Mix these for your next celebration or make a big bowl for a Wassailing party.
Norman the Elder
for each champagne flute:
4 oz dry cider
.5 oz St. Germain
dash citrus bitters
garnish with blackberries
Top 10 ciders of 2014
The Cider Journal website did a round-up of their top 10 ciders of 2014. We are looking forward to the day when a Utah cider breaks onto that list! Until then, just finding and tasting them will be a worthy goal for 2015.
There's a link below to like our Facebook page and keep up with all the goings on here at the ranch. We promise more cute animal photos, recipes and cider recommendations!
Wassail to you and yours!
Robert and I send our best wishes for a delicious 2015. We leave you with a few lines from The Wassail Song:
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year
And God send you a Happy New Year.