1.5 Litres (3 x 500ml bottles) of traditional real ale – or traditional cider
6 small cooking apples, cored (Bramley apples)
1 nutmeg freshly grated
1 tsp ground ginger
150g brown sugar (demerara)
Core whole apples. Lightly grease a baking tray and bake at 120C for about an hour, until they become soft and pulpy and the skins are easy to peel away.
In a large thick bottomed saucepan (which is quite tall to avoid splashes when whisking) add the sugar. Cover the sugar in a small amount of the ale (or cider) and heat gently. Stir continuously until the sugar has dissolved. Then add in the ground ginger and grate in the whole of the nutmeg. Stir, and keeping the pan on a gentle simmer, slowly add in all the rest of the ale (or cider). Leave for 10 minutes on a gentle heat as you deal with the apples.
Take the baked apples out of the oven to cool slightly for 10 minutes – they should now be soft and pulpy.
Break open the apples and scoop out the baked flesh into a bowl, discarding the skin. Then take a fork and mash this apple pulp up, while it is still warm, into a smooth purée with no lumps. Add the apple purée into the ale (or cider), mixing it in with a whisk.
Let the saucepan continue to warm everything through for thirty minutes, on a very gentle heat, until ready to drink. When warmed through use the whisk again for a couple of minutes (or use a stick blender) to briskly and vigorously froth the drink up and mix everything together. The apple and light froth will float to the surface, and depending on how much you have whisked it, the more it looks like lamb’s wool. Note: to traditionally froth drinks up they were normally poured continuously between two large serving jugs to get air into the drink.
Ladle the hot drink into heat-proof mugs or glasses and grate over some nutmeg, or pour the drink into a communal bowl (with several thick pieces of toast in the bottom) to pass around if wassailing.
- 1 ½ cups walnuts
- 1 cup dried cherries
- 1 cup pitted prunes
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- ½ cup pitted dates
- ½ cup raisins
- ½ tsp ground anise seed
- ¼ tsp ground allspice
- 3 pieces candied ginger, chopped
- granulated sugar, for rolling
- zest of 1 orange
- Pulse the walnuts, prunes and cherries first, until the walnut pieces become the texture of crumbs. Add the raisins, dates, candied ginger, orange zest, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice and pulse until evenly mixed.
- Scoop spoonfuls of the mixture and shape into balls by rolling in your palms. Roll the sugar plums in sugar to coat completely and place each in a paper cup. Store the sugar plums in an airtight container. The sugar plums will keep up to a month in an airtight container, though if you are going to keep them do not roll in sugar first – do this just before serving.
- Did you know..that sugar plums were on the menu at the wedding feast of Henry IV in 1403? And that by the time Tchaikovsky wrote his Nutcracker ballet in 1890, a sugar plum wasn’t a specific treat, but a “universal signifier of everything sweet and delectable and lovely”