A holiday round-up

Taking a wee break to spend the holidays with my family, my dears, so here is a seasonal post from 2013. You might have missed it the first time around, and I hope you enjoy.

If you just can’t get enough seasonal cheer, here are a few books you might enjoy:

*JANE AUSTEN’S CHRISTMAS Maria Hubert

*CHRISTMAS POEMS Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets

*CHRISTMAS AT COLD COMFORT FARM Stella Gibbons

To drink, I would suggest the Marches’ very own recipe for wassail punch as published in SILENT NIGHT, the Christmas novella:

Recipe for March Wassail Punch

 

Drinking wassail is an ancient tradition. Dating back to Saxon times, the word itself comes from the greeting “wæs hæl”, roughly translated as “be you healthy”. In the counties of southern England renowned for cider production, drinking wassail originated as a bit of sympathetic magic to protect and encourage the apple trees to bear fruit. While wassail and other punches were very popular during Regency times, by the later part of the 19th-century, they had been largely supplanted by wines and other spirits. The Marches, however, care much more for their own pleasure than for what is fashionable. They serve their wassail the old-fashioned way, out of an enormous wooden bowl mounted in silver with a roasted apple garnish. Their wassail is, as tradition dictates, served quite hot and is deceptively alcoholic. Proceed with caution.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Core a dozen small apples. (You will only need ten for the wassail, but leftover roasted apples are delicious with cream, yogurt, or ice cream.) Loosely spoon brown sugar into each apple place in a casserole dish with a small amount of water. Bake until tender, approximately 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, gently warm 2 pints hard cider. (This is not available in the juice aisle of the grocery store. It is wonderfully alcoholic and tastes deeply of apples. You can find bottled varieties at wine and liquor stores, but the very best is fermented by apple farmers for their own use. Find one and befriend him. The Marches get their cider at the source from the Home Farm at Bellmont Abbey.) To the warming cider, add four cinnamon sticks, crushed with a mortar and pestle, and four pinches ground cloves. (In a bind, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon may be substituted for the sticks.) Grate in fresh ginger and fresh nutmeg to taste. Lord March’s secret ingredient is a cup of his very best port, added just in time to heat through.

When the apples are plump and bursting from their skins, remove them from the oven. Put one into a heatproof punch glass and ladle the wassail over. The March family recipe calls for a garnish of a fresh cinnamon stick for each glass.

This recipe will serve six Marches or ten ordinary folk.

And for some mood music:

*To Drive the Cold Winter Away Loreena McKennitt

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