In every issue of BBC History Magazine, picture editor Sam Nott brings you a recipe from the past. In this article, Sam recreates wassail punch – a deliciously warming drink that dates back to the Middle Ages.
The smell of roasting apples and cinnamon that fills the house during preparation is reason enough to make this drink, but it’s also a wonderfully warming tipple, perfect for the festive period. Wassail punch is a medieval drink and, in the south-west and south-east of England at least, was drunk as part of a ceremony or ritual that took place to ensure a good cider-apple harvest the following year. I’ll drink to that!
• 6 small apples, washed and cored
• 1 litre cider (I used dry)
• 2 cinnamon sticks, crushed
• 2 pinches ground cloves
• Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
• 1 lemon, sliced
• Sugar, to taste
Preheat oven to 190˚C/gas mark 5. Score the apples and place in an ovenproof tray and roast for 45–50 minutes, or until skin is soft and starting to split.
Heat the cider in a saucepan over a low heat and add cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Stir well and heat through until the liquid starts to foam.
Add the lemon slices and roasted apples, and give the liquid a good stir – if there is any apple juice left in your ovenproof dish, add this, too. If you want to add sugar (I added about 4 tablespoons), now is a good time to do so – add it gradually and taste as you go along. Serve hot.
BBC history Magazine team verdict:
“A lovely punch that was very easy to make.”
“Tastes a bit like apple crumble in a glass.”
“I’d drink this to knock out a cold!”
Time (including roasting apples): 1hr
Recipe courtesy of the BBC’s ‘Make Your Own Victorian Christmas’