The Apple Wassail

Orchards all over Minnesota are practicing an ancient tradition this month. I first heard about this from Sweetland Orchards, my favorite orchard and cidery. They sent out an email saying they were going to be hosting a party in the barn and going out into the orchard at sunset with noisemakers to scare away spirits and taking toast to tie to the oldest tree in the orchard.

I had heard of Wassailing before but it was always in conjunction with Christmas or Yule celebrations. To wassail means to go visiting. Apparently southern England has its own still strong tradition of apple wassailing that is visiting the orchards. They would go out to sing songs and pour out offerings to the trees showing the spirit of the orchard what they had produced with the previous year's bounty and asking for abundance in the coming growing season.

The toast puzzled me so I looked into that further. Apparently older traditions would soak the toast with some of the cider to hang in the branches before pouring some out on the roots. Other places hang it in the branches dry. One site even suggested that it was hung for the robins. None were good at explaining the origins of the toast in the branches itself, just that it has long been done that way.

Many English orchard wassailing parties take guns and shoot them off in addition to the noise makers just in case banging on pots and pans and yelling isn't quite enough to scare off any evil spirits. They are serious about the cider making over the pond.

Sweetland Orchards chose to follow many others in long tradition of holding their orchard wassailing on 12th Night or Epiphany. That is by no means the only date to hold this ceremony though. There are advertisements for wassailing from early January thru early February. 

Blessings on the coming growing season and all who benefit from apples growing.


Apples, apples, apples... Everywhere?

Sunday was our coven apple picking outing.  The apple season is a little late this year because of the long, cool spring.  We did not get to pick our own apples but we did get some of the SweeTango apples!

One of the things that happened at our Pagan Pride ritual was that we were urged to know more about our food, where it comes from, how it is made, and how it nourishes our bodies and the land.  

Well, we learned some new things about apples and how they grow.  Miel visited with the apple growers at the State Fair.  They turned her on to McDougall's Apple Junction in Hastings MN.  They use a special technique called Espalier which in very basic terms in pruning and shaping a tree so that it grows on a trellis or in a specific pattern.  The trees are smaller, but produce more fruit.  

We also learned more about the difference between bees and wasps.  They have different types of venom.  Bees have a venom that is a warning.  "Go away you big scary human!"  And wasps sting to immobilize and eat whatever it has stung.  "Take that puny human!"  Also, by continuing to back away from the wasp, you create a backdraft sort of vacuum.  The little wasp has very little choice but to follow you.  

We walked away from our trip with LOTS of apples and armed with more information about the world we live in.  

Now what are we going to do with all those apples?

Last night I made apple fritters.  Quick, easy, and tasty.  Not so much with the healthy though.

1 1/3 c self-rising flour

1/4 c sugar

1/3 c milk

1 egg



Powdered Sugar

Peel, core and slice your apples.  I used 4 fairly large SweeTango apples.  And just used the metal corer/slicer thing from the kitchen section of the store so I had little apple wedges.

Mix your dry ingredients.  Add your wet ingredients.  Mix well.  It should be a little thicker than pancake batter.  You may need to add more milk.  Pour about a 1/4 inch of oil in your frying pan.  Dunk your apples in the batter.  And then fry them up in the pan.  Turn over when they are a nice golden brown.  Remove when they are nicely done on both sides.

Drain off the oil by placing the apple wedges on paper towels on a plate.  I had extra batter leftover so I gave it another good mix and just poured it into the oil -- Voila!  Fried Dough!  

Once everything has cooled and the oil has dripped off, sprinkle on powdered sugar and eat!  They are best when eaten warm.   This recipe comes from the very old red recipe book that my mom let me take when I moved up here.  It is from the Culinary Arts Institute.

And if you need more ideas of things to do with apples... click here

All the best,