#166- Watch Twelfth Night and make wassail
Are you a fan of Shakespeare? Have you seen the play, Twelfth Night? Did you know that twelfth night marks the twelfth night after Christmas? Did you know that the “12 days of Christmas song” is meant to count the days after Christmas up to the arrival of the wise men on Epiphany, January 5th/6th?
Well, I think it’s a definitely a good reason to celebrate Tuesday.
It is a cold and rainy twelfth night here in Los Angeles. I thought it would be the perfect night to watch the film and hit the ale. You can rent the film on iTunes or Amazon. Or if you want to replace this film with something with smaller words in the same theme, try this.
Wassail is the perfect old-fashioned accompaniment to foul weather. If you haven’t had it before, it is a hot drink made of ale, baked apples, and spices. The English novels I devoured as a child were full of people going “wassailing”. Listen to this song on YouTube for the full effect.
I looked through old books and magazines for an authentic wassail recipe, but in the end I settled on Alton Brown’s recipe. It is simple, straightforward, and it has an accompanying fun video.
I found a website that discusses the practice of wassailing which still takes place in some parts of England, “On twelfth-night, toast a thick slice of rustic bread and place it into the bottom of a communal bowl. Then pour in the prepared wassail. Take the bowl out into your garden, field or orchard, with friends and family, carrying lighted torches aflame, and pots and pans to beat with wooden spoons and sticks, (with more toast to hang in the branches of the trees and more cups of wassail to drink and splash around to bless the area).”
This does sound like fun. I’ll have to invest in some torches for next year.
In the mean time, I went to Whole Foods and bought the ingredients for Alton’s wassail recipe.
Isn’t that little carton of Vital Farms eggs cute? Cuter still, they come with a tiny newspaper inside that refers to their chickens as their “girls on grass”.
They even feature a “Bird of the Month”. This month it is Roaming Rita. You can follow her on twitter @girlsongrass.
I don’t know much about ale so I chose it like I choose race horses- the name appealed to me. The label says, “Lagunitas Brown Shugga’, How Come You Taste So Good…”
The Lagunitas Brewing Company is in Petaluma, California. Their other products have names like, “Hairy Eyeball” and “Lil’ Sumpin,”. I tasted the ale before I put it in the wassail, and I realized that I haven’t fully acquired my taste for ales yet. I’m going to have to work my way up to the hoppier styles. Next time I’m up north, I’ll stop at their brewery. The website says they have “tours every freakin’ day,” so that should work with my schedule.
I thought something with brown sugar flavor might work well in the wassail, but I was afraid it might be too sweet since the apples were stuffed with brown sugar as well. I needn’t have worried. After I’d roasted the apples, heated the liquors, beaten the eggs, and put it all together- it was still far too strong for me. And I’m a bourbon girl, so that’s saying something.
I think I know now how they get the torches lit.
I warmed half a cup of honey and whisked it into the wassail, and that made it more palatable for me. I’m a big fan of Ace Ciders, so I think if I make wassail again, I’ll try it with cider. I’ll leave out the Madeira altogether.
I let the flavors comingle in the crockpot for an hour or so, and then I served myself a cup. I spooned whipped cream on top and grated nutmeg over it. I listened to the rain fall outside and I felt the fire on my toes.
If Twelfth Night scholar, internet Ed’s, assumption is correct, and the principal theme of Twelfth Night is that the pursuit of happiness is not only our privilege, but also our responsibility- tonight, at least, I am on the right track.
360 days to go.