Wassailing is a traditional ceremony with the purpose of awaking the apple trees and scaring away evil spirits to ensure a good harvest. Wassail is a term derived from the Old English "waes haeil," or "be thou well." Wassailing lies at the heart of the modern custom of Christmas caroling. Historical wassails were made of mulled beer or mead with sugar, ale, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon heated in a bowl and then topped with slices of toast as sops.
4 whole cloves
3 12-oz. bottles of good brown ale
1 cup dry sherry
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. each of ground nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Peel and core one of the apples and cut into thick slices. Place in layers in a baking dish and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Drizzle with 2 oz. of brown ale. Bake until the apples are very tender, about 45 minutes.
Let apples cool and pulse with their cooking juices in a food processor until smooth. Place in a saucepan over medium-low heat and add the remaining ale, sherry, orange (studded with the whole cloves), and spices.
Simmer gently for a few minutes. Peel and core the remaining apple and slice it crosswise. You can use a cookie cutter to cut out the center if you choose, but the natural star pattern in the center of the apple is beautiful too.
Ladle hot wassail threw a sieve into mugs and add the apple slices. Serve with a cinnamon stick stirrer for extra pizazz, and then warm up your vocal cords for a round of “The Wassail Song.”