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‘Waes hael’ – To your good health!

Originally it was done on New Year’s Eve or Twelfth Night (Jan. 6 which is Epiphany) and was often accompanied by Mummers who did some fancy cross-dressing and wore fantastic masks and indulged in some minor mischief. Eventually one of the English kings got fed up with the not-so-minor mischief and banned mumming and the wearing of masks but permitted the singing of carols in exchange for a tankard of “wassail.”

Recipe follows:

It is said that Oxford University owns a “Wassail Bowl” made of silver that will hold 10 gallons of this seasonal refreshment, but the everyday recipe consists of reasonable amounts of hard cider or ale, brandy or sherry, and orange juice all “mulled” together with various spices – cloves, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon – then fortified with bits of apple and toast (or not). Mulling just means to simmer until well warmed – best served in a glass with a handle lest the fingers get too toasty!

A non-alcoholic version uses apple cider, orange juice, pineapple juice, brown sugar, cinnamon sticks with ground cinnamon and cloves to taste. Mull as directed above.

If you plan on doing any “mumming” this season, here is the poem you are supposed to chant before doing any mischief:

“Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat,

Please put a penny in the old man’s hat.

If you have no penny, a ha’penny will do

and if you have no ha’penny – then God bless you!”

It was the lack of a ha’penny that caused all the mischief

While we’re in the seasonal mode, I must disclose I had to look up a recipe for sugar plums (so called as they used to have dried plums in them), and they were touted as being rather lo-cal as far as holiday food went. I shall not be making any due to having to purchase too many ingredients not usually stocked in my kitchen – ground cardamom, caraway seeds, anise seeds, dried apricots and dried figs.

Speaking of figs, I also found a yummy recipe for “Warm Sticky Figgy Pudding.”

Who could resist this!

The recipe is way too long to be included here, but I will supply it to anyone who asks. Again, several special purchases will be necessary- dried, pitted dates, dried figs, self-rising flour and whipping cream to create such deliciousness!

Well, I’ve worked up quite an appetite with this article – best get back to gardening next time.

Merry Christmas and happy New Year to all! Remember there are no calories in holiday food and the dreaded hairy bittercress has already germinated

Tina Clinefelter is a Penn State Master Gardener emerita with the Cooperative Extension office (570-726-0022). She has received the President’s Volunteer Service Award from the Points of Light Foundation.

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