I’m back in good old England for a short time and being January it’s wassailing time in the South West. If you’ve never been wassailing ‘you sure have missed a great night out’ so let me tell you all about it …have you got your glass of cider ready?
Cider waiting to be enjoyed!
In the beginning we had apples …and then someone discovered that if you pressed them in a mill, extracted juice, let it ferment, it tasted …well ‘it be tastin a bit of or right’ as my Grandad would say. Now what goes well with an alcoholic drink? . . . a bit of a do of course, and what better bit of a do can there be than celebrating wassailing down in Somerset.
It’s a great night out as I can bear testimony — it naturally starts with a glass or three of cider. Then in Somerset the wassailing King and Queen need to be crowned
They are selected in various ways, often two trinkets are baked in an enormous cake and whoever gets a trinket in their weeny cake portion becomes the King and Queen. How one female and one male always seem to be chosen I’m afraid I’ve no idea. The ‘choosing’ always seems to take place so far away from me that I’ve never seen exactly what’s going on or maybe I’ve had one cider too many by this time.
The custom of wassailing started in the late 17th century and it is performed to protect the trees from evil spirits and to encourage them to bear plentiful crops. (Yeah, well)
We all follow our newly crowned King and Queen [who are dressed resplendently in richly sumptuous attire by this time] not forgetting the farmer [who brings his gun] out to the dark apple orchards. We take our full cider glass with us naturally.
This is what the wassailing is hoping to produce
The favoured apple tree is chosen and we all gather around or as near we can as sometimes there might be as many as a hundred people or more.
Our ‘Royal King and Queen’ place a cider-soaked piece of toasted bread in the fork of the tree to attract good spirits [or maybe it’s just breakfast for a crow in the morning].
Cider is poured over the tree’s roots, the farmer fires his gun to frighten away the evil spirits and then we all toast the tree (hic!) and sing. Although in all honesty tuneful singing is beyond some people’s capability by this point in the evening.
We make our way back [maybe I should say stagger our way back] to the farmer’s barns where cider drinking continues and bread and cheese now appears
I can’t begin to tell you what a great night out this is. It has to be experienced to understand. The only downside is that you need to wrap up warm as it is traditional to hold this rite on old Twelfth Night, and I can assure you that ‘it be cold’ in the Somerset fields at that time of the year.
Here in the West Country we have a favourite son who was a cider-swilling, band-stomping, rambunctious man who headed the yokel hit folk music of ‘The Wurzels’.
Here in the West Country we have a favourite son who was a cider-swilling, band-stomping, rambunctious man who headed the yokel hit folk music of Adge Cutler
Unfortunately Adge Cutler was killed in a car accident but many of his songs are still known. Don’t be put off by the words ‘yokel’ and‘folk’ if you are not a fan of this genre …just watch the below video. I think you’ll like this cider song aptly named ‘Drink up thee cider’ and there’s even a very short film on Somerset cider making thrown in.
Drink Up Thy Zider! Coates cider vat named after Wurzels!