Valley Bounty, December 28, 2013: Festive Drinks
Ring in the new year with local libations—and don’t forget to toast the health of the farmers who feed us well all year long! Fruit cordials and cider can be added to sparkling water or used to dress up a martini or a cosmopolitan. Mead, hard cider, wine, eggnog, and beer made from locally grown ingredients are all available from local farms and businesses. Find sources and recipes on the Valley Bounty page. Wassail!
Sources: Visit winter farmers’ markets or retailers specializing in local products to find fruit cordials, mead, wine, cider and hard cider, and eggnog made from local ingredients. Or consult our lists of apple cider producers and wine and liquor producers. Bug Hill Farm makes delicious cordials, and Mapleline Farm makes eggnog. On Valley Malt’s website, you’ll find a list of breweries using their regionally grown barley, malted in Hadley.
Bug Hill Farm in Ashfield has recipes using their Black Currant Cordial, Rhubarb Rush, and Kiss of Cassis.
You could also try making your own eggnog, the link goes to a lighter tasting spin on the holiday classic.
If you haven’t any cordial, but do have home-canned peaches or pears, the syrupy juice from the canned fruit makes a good substitute for juice in drinks like a cosmopolitan.
The English custom of toasting the apple trees in order to ensure a good harvest for the next year’s cider has resulted in dozens of songs and many variations on the recipe for wassail. I offer this recipe from Jed Proujansky of Northfield because it features local ingredients (maple syrup, eggs, and apples) and because I can testify to the accuracy of Jed’s description: “this recipe tastes lovely, with the sweetness of angels and the kick of a mule.”
Jed Proujansky, Northfield
This recipe is based on the one found in the 1967 version of the Joy of Cooking, pg 51, with some modifications. It makes enough for two large mixing bowls of wassail.
Core and bake a dozen apples. I use Cortlands or some apple that does not turn to mush (definitely not Macs). I peel and core the apples, trying not to go through the bottom so I have a hole to put in the liquid. I fill each of the holes in the apple half way to the top with maple syrup. Sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg on top of the apple, put into a glass baking dish and put in about ¼” of water on the bottom of the pan. Bake in a 350˚ oven until soft. As the apples cook, some of the liquid escapes the center of the apples and mixes with the spices and water to make a nice syrup. Set aside the baked apples. They can be cooked in advance and should be at room temp or warmer when serving.
Heat up 4 bottles of sherry or Madeira. I prefer dry sherry as there is a lot of sweetness throughout the rest of the recipe. Bring it to a near boil, but do not boil.
Combine in a saucepan and boil for 5 minutes:
1 cup water
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon fresh grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground mace
6 whole cloves
6 allspice berries
1 stick cinnamon
Beat until stiff, but not dry:
1 dozen egg whites
Beat separately :
1 dozen egg yokes
In a large bowl fold in the egg whites into the yolks. Strain the spice mixture into eggs, combining quickly.
Now add the hot sherry into the spice and egg mixture beginning slowly and stirring briskly with each addition. Immediately after this add 2 to 4 cups of brandy. Because there is so much sugar and sweetness there is no reason to spend money on the high quality brandy. A mid range priced brandy is more than sufficient. The recipe calls for 2 cups but 4 gives it a bit more of a kick. If done right the mixture will foam up and make a nice show. This has little effect on the flavor so don’t worry if you don’t get any foaming. Now add the baked apples and syrup from the apples into the mixture and give it one last stir.
“Wassail! wassail! all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown;
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree;
With the wassailing bowl we’ll drink to thee!”