I have started with a traditional Wassail, which Wassail—or mulled cider—is a delicious fall and winter tradition that’s especially made around Christmastime in a number of European countries. Roughly translated from Old English or Old Norse, the word means “be hale,” or be hearty and healthy—a well-wishing sentiment that was spread when townsfolk would go wassailing during the apple harvest. Wassailing principally consisted of two acts: going door to door and singing, which became the tradition of caroling, or going to orchards to sing to the trees, in the hopes that it would help them produce better apples. It’s unclear if the latter tactic ever resulted in a better crop, but after you make wassail at home, you’ll understand why singing to the trees seemed like a good idea.
While wassail contains apple cider, it has a lot more depth of flavor than any variety you could buy in a jug at the store. And it has the distinct advantage of using up any aging fruit you have in the house, as well as making your home smell like Christmas morning. There’s really no downside to this warm beverage, except perhaps that you have to wait for the spices to mull in the drink before you can dip out the first cup.
The recipes that follow are ideas for meals leading up to the big day - the very elaborate and wonderful accompaniments to a traditional Christmas Turkey - the secret here is to prepare as much as possible well in advance. Things can be frozen, or stored, stuffings etc, can be made a day or two in advance or even frozen.
I have chosen particular recipes that we have cooked every year for the past forty plus years, which the family absolutely adore and I am apparently not allowed to stray from our traditional feast!
Christmas food is without doubt hard work and takes time and preparation but so much of it can be done in good time and we still have to write down timings on the day - but is so well worth all the effort of making everything yourself!
Granny's Christmas Pudding
Mince Pies with apples and brandy
A traditional Italian recipe