Wassail is a traditional drink that is associated with the Christmas season in many parts of the world.
A hot, spiced punch, wassail can be made from a variety of ingredients, including apples, oranges, spices, and ale or wine.
Traditionally, it was served from a communal bowl and was meant to be shared among friends and family.
The origins of wassail can be traced back to ancient civilizations, where it was used as a way to celebrate the winter solstice and welcome in the new year. In the Middle Ages, wassail was a popular drink during the holiday season, and it was often served at Christmas feasts and celebrations.
In some parts of the world, it is traditional to go wassailing, which involves visiting friends and neighbours and singing carols while carrying a bowl of wassail. The tradition of wassailing is still practiced in some areas and is seen as a way of spreading good cheer and celebrating the holiday season.
If you fancy a warm, spiced drink for the New Year, but prefer something non alcoholic, then I highly recommend this recipe that was developed for me, when I ran the cook school, by a wonderful lady called Judith.
Judith's Fruit Punch
Last year I missed out on my Christmas Cheese order by a few days.
So, when I was able to order early, this weekend, I was reminded of how my mum paid the milkman a pound extra each week so that at Christmas she had a 'hamper' delivered with special Christmas food.
I think she would start around easter and it cost about £30 which, when the weekly shop was around £20 was a massive amount of money.
Although our milkman was Unigate, I found this ad from the period for Express Dairies which gives a taste of what you could save for. We used to go for the cupboard food bundle as mum would put away a few pounds each week with the butcher, in order to pay for the meat at Christmas.
There would be all the accompaniments for Christmas dinner; cranberry sauce, mint sauce, bread sauce packet (special because it was Knorr!).
A Christmas biscuit selection box - one each of savoury cheese for biscuits and sweet biscuits. A packet of Cornish biscuits (I loved their texture). The classic McVitie's Tunis cake ... a joy to behold with its marzipan fruits on top (see the link for more on this 1970s delight) and some glace fruit.
There would be tins of soup ... Always Baxters... I still think of these as being posh because of that. Tinned vegetables; including a tin of Heinz Russian salad, which was basically carrots, beans, peas and potatoes in salad cream .. in a tin!
A couple of packets of nuts would also be in there. Always KP. Always peanuts and a packet of either mixed nuts or cashews.
Then there would be the Bird's Trifle. That totally chemically created thing that had rock hard trifle sponges, strangely bright red coloured jelly, custard and a 'cream' substitute that was whiter than brilliant white emulsion paint. And don't forget the hundred's and thousands sprinkled on the top. It was supposed to feed a family of four, but in reality, it barely fed one person.
Elizabeth Shaw mint thins ... or matchmakers. And iced Gems. Those little biscuits with hard icing that could shred your mouth if you dared to chew them before having sucked them for 20 minutes to get them soft.
Tinned meat ... Tinned ham in that strange arch shaped tin and corned beef. Old oak for the ham and Princes for the corned beef.
And for the tinned fruit ... tropical fruit cocktail. The same as a standard fruit cocktail, but with pineapple. And talking of pineapple, there would be that tin of crushed pineapple that no one knew what to do with and lived in the back of the cupboard until Christmas next year when mum would make us eat it for tea one day because you legally couldn't have two tins of it in the house or the world would end.
Pickles were always a big thing in the box. Piccalilli, which was so yellow with no forbidden food colours that it almost glowed in the dark. Those mini gherkins that were so hard, along with silver skin onions, rock hard olives and maraschino flavoured cherries because, at Christmas every woman would be whipping up a dry Martini for her husband and popping a maraschino cherry into her Cinzano Rousso and lemonade.
There would be a crate of soft drinks ... Always corona because 'every bubble has passed it fizzical'. I would be allocated one bottle of limeade and one bottle of cherryade to get through the festivities. There would be masses of lemonade because ... Well, you need something to add to your Cinzano. Although I strongly believe that mum and her friends had basically lemonade with a dash of Cinzano so it looked pink and smelt exotic.
If mum had a bit extra money, she would go for the top tier hamper which would also have two bottles of wine; always a choice between Blue Nun, Black Tower and Matteus Rose (do you like Demis Roussou?).
There would be an advent calendar (paper ... no chocolates in it in the 70s), some paper chain papers to make up and a card from the milk man.
It was such a big thing opening up the box. We'd all sit round and ooh and hah as each item was pulled out from the shredded wood and put into little groups on the carpet.