Friday, January 8, 2010

Traditional British Food, Part 24: Here We Come a-Wassailing, or What You Will-- a Twelfth Night's Entertainment

Coffee & Tea
Roast Beef & Cheddar Sandwiches on Wheat
Bacon Sandwiches on White
Caviar (probably rather vulgar, I know)
Mincemeat Tarts

Tuesday night was Twelfth Night, so we had a few friends over for wassail and nibbles, wassail being the official Twelfth Night drink according to the Oxford English Dictionary and to a pamphlet entitled Favourite Somerset Recipes. Twelfth Night is celebrated the evening before Epiphany and thus marks the end of the Christmas season. However, we did not have twelve pipers piping or anything like that. Maybe next year. That would be quite outrageous.

"...they sat down by the huge fire of blazing logs to a substantial supper, and a mighty bowl of wassail, something smaller than an ordinary wash-house copper, in which the hot apples were hissing and bubbling with a rich look, and a jolly sound, that were perfectly irresistible."
-Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers


Serves 6

8 small, red eating apples (approx. 4 ounces each, I used small Galas)
3/4 cup light brown sugar (packed)
6-12 oz. bottles brown ale (or 9 cups)
2 cups Bristol cream sherry
Strips of peel from 1 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons mixed spice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a vegetable peeler, remove a strip of skin around the middle of each apple. Put the apples in a large pot than can be used on the stove and in the oven. Add the brown sugar and 1 cup of ale. Cover and cook 30 minutes.

Remove the pot from the oven, take out the apples and keep for later. To the pot, add remaining ale, sherry, lemon peel and spices. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes. Return apples to the wassail and keep hot on the stove until ready to serve.

Adapted from Favourite Somerset Recipes.

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Mincemeat Tarts

Makes 24 tarts

4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 pound butter (2 sticks), chilled
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
grated rind from 1 orange

about 1 cup mincemeat

Using a pastry blender, two forks or a food processor (or even your fingers!), work the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Next, mix in the sugar and salt. Add the egg yolks and orange rind and stir to mix. Add cold water as needed until mixture comes together. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 20 minutes to overnight. Dough will keep in freezer for a couple of months.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll the pastry out (to about 1/4") on a floured surface. Cut 24 circles with a 3"-diameter circular cutter. Place rounds in 2 standard 12-cup muffin tins and bake in the center of the oven for 15 minutes.

Take the tarts out of the oven and spoon about 1/2 tablespoon mincemeat in each one and return to the oven for another 5 minutes. Cool in tins for 5-10 minutes and then cool completely on racks.

Adapted from BBC Good Food.

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Paul is being wonderful and taking me to see The Young Victoria this evening. I've been waiting for it to come out here for almost a year! I'll let you know what I thought of it. Here's the trailer:


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