WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Lushey

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Lushey

I hope everyone had a Happy Twelfth Night!

It’s a holiday that goes largely unnoticed in the United States, so in case you missed it, consider reading up on it and possibly practicing it a few days late. That way, you’ll be ready for it next year! And you won’t fall into the wassail bowl like this week’s word.

Twelfth Night by Isaac Cruikshank, 1807, British Museum.

Lushey

Drunk. Example: The rolling kiddeys hud a spree, and got bloody lushey ~ the dashing lads went on a party of pleasure, and got very drunk.

First came the ancient Roman holiday Saturnalia, the December celebration of the god Saturn, and making of all things debauched and merry. As little gods were gradually swapped out for one single God, the old customs centered around the winter solstice morphed into traditions and customs of a Christian nature, that of the birth of the single Savior. The ‘Birthday of the Unconquered Sun‘ became the Birthday of Christ by the Medieval era.

Twelfth Night festivities resulted in response to the 40 days of Advent the preceded Christmas. And what better way is there to break a fast than with tons of food, drink, and a bit of frivolous mayhem? The Advent fast would break on Christmas day; partying continued for twelve days and ended with a Twelfth Night feast the evening before January 6th, also known as Ephiphany.

True devotees of Twelfth Night fun would appoint a Lord of Misrule. It was his job to organize all the feasting and fun. Selection of the Lord was also part of the entertainment and entirely up to chance: a bean was baked inside a cake. Receive the slice with the bean and be crowned Lord of Misrule, you lucky devil. The Tudors even included a pea in their cakes, to be crowned Queen of the Pea. I’m not sure of her honors beyond that dubious title.

Traditional Porter Cake for Twelfth Night, made with Porter Ale, courtesy Historical Foods.

By the Regency era, beans and peas were replaced by silver trinkets and charms, and Twelfth Night traditions became purely secular in practice. The Victorians gilded the lily by wrapping their cakes in crowns.

I knew about the infamous Twelfth Night Cake, but not so much about the drinking. It’s time for recipes! And for authenticity’s sake, they’re metric!

Buttered Beere

Forget whatever Harry Potter drank. This here be Tudor buttered beere. The kind that puts hair on your codpiece. (That sounded better in my head.)

Tudor Butterbeer Recipe
(‘Beer’ means what today in the UK is called a ‘real ale.’ It is not a lager, or German-styled beer.)

Recipe Ingredients:
1500 ml (3 bottles) of good quality British ‘real ale’
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
200g demerara (brown) sugar (adjust to taste)
5 egg yolks (yolks only are needed)
120g unsalted butter (diced)

For The Chilled or Warm Milk Version:
1500 ml of chilled or warm butter beer (as above).
1500 ml of cold or warm milk to mix with the butter beer

Authentic Recipe Method:
Pour the ale into a saucepan carefully (without exciting it too much) and stir in the ground ginger, cloves and nutmeg. Gently heat this mixture to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer on a low heat – the frothy ale will now clear. If this butterbeer is for adults then only simmer it for a few minutes on a low heat; for any younger adults, heat the ale like this for 20 minutes at 140C, (use a cook’s or jam thermometer). This will burn off almost all of the alcohol.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until light and creamy. You may need to make this drink for the first time and then decide on how sweet you like it (if it comes out too sweet for you, make it again using less sugar next time). However the amount of sugar stated is from the authentic recipe, (if later blending with milk, then it is the perfect amount).

Once the spiced ale is simmering, remove the pan from the heat and add the egg yolk and sugar mixture, stir constantly, and return to a low heat, (you must stir constantly) until the liquid starts to thicken slightly. Be careful not to let the saucepan get too hot again or the egg yolks will scramble and the sugar will burn on the bottom before dissolving. Simmer at this low temperature for 3 minutes.

After 3 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the diced butter until it melts. Then froth the Butterbeer mixture with a hand-whisk until it looks like frothy, milky tea – you can also follow the Tudor advice and pour the Butterbeer from serving jug to serving jug to froth it up (like Mr. Carson would pour wine from decanter to decanter to aerate it and let it breathe). Allow to cool to a warm, drinkable temperature, pour into small glasses or small tankards, and serve immediately.

Authentic buttered beere of 1588, served warm in small pewter goblets. Photo courtesy Historical Foods.

Traditional English Wassail

This is not hot, mulled cider. Let’s just get that misconception tossed in the rubbish bin straight out. It is hot, and it is mulled, but it’s closer to beer than any cider you’ve ever had. To be fair, we’re talking Medieval recipes here. Apples were involved, although more as a garnish. Slices of bread even factor into the ingredient list; original wassail had toast in the bottom of the pot, with hot wassail poured over.

Perhaps the association of wassail and apples came from the tradition of wassailing the apple trees, that of pouring leftover wassail around the roots of apple trees to ensure a good harvest the following year.

<insert your own joke here about how many people you know who ‘wassail their trees’ after a night of exuberant drinking at a party>

Lambswool (Hot Wassail)

1.5 Litres (3 x 500ml bottles or about 6 1/2 cups) of traditional real ale
6 small cooking apples, cored (Bramley apples)
1 nutmeg freshly grated
1 tsp ground ginger
150g (3/4 cup) brown sugar (demerara)

Ingredients for lambswool wassail. Photo courtesy recipewise.uk.co.

Preheat the oven 120C. Prepare the apples in advance and time it so that they are ready about half an hour before you want to put them into the Lambswool to serve. Core the 6 apples fully, getting rid of the pips. Lightly grease a baking tray, then place the apples on the baking tray about 6cm apart (they will swell up a little). Bake the apples for about an hour or so.

Now, while those are baking, grate yourself some nutmeg. In a large, thick-bottomed saucepan (they make the rockin’ world go ’round – still with me? Yes, it’s late and I should be in bed, and yes, I’ve taken my bronchitis cough syrup already.) with high sides, add the sugar. Cover the sugar in a small amount of the ale and heat gently. Stir continuously until the sugar has dissolved, then add in the ground ginger and the nutmeg. Stir, and keeping the pan on a gentle simmer, slowly add in all the rest of the ale. Leave for 10 minutes on a gentle heat as you deal with the apples.

Take the baked apples out of the oven to cool slightly for 10 minutes. Break open the apples and scoop out the baked flesh into a bowl, discarding the skin. Either mash them with a fork or purée them in a food processor until smooth, but not liquid. Think thick, dry applesauce. Add the apple purée into the ale – which is now called Lambswool – mixing it in with a whisk.

Let the saucepan continue to warm everything through for thirty minutes, on a very gentle heat, until ready to drink. When warmed through, use the whisk again for a couple of minutes (or use a stick blender) to briskly and vigorously froth the drink up and mix everything together. The apple and light froth will float to the surface, and depending on how much you have whisked it, the more it looks like lamb’s wool.

Ladle the hot Lambswool into heat-proof mugs or glasses, and grate over some nutmeg (to taste, because a little goes a long way). Or, pour the drink into a communal bowl (with several thick pieces of toast in the bottom if you want to be completely authentic) to pass around if you happen to be wassailing the local apple orchard.

Traditional Lambswool Wassail. Photo courtesy recipewise.uk.co.

Cheers!

 

  • Slang term from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
  • You can learn a lot about Twelfth Night at the more specifically-titled A History of the Twelfth Night Cake.
  • The Guildhall Library Newsletter also tells much about Twelfth Night in a post entitled merely Twelfth Night Cake.
  • Find the Porter Cake Recipe at Historical Foods. A cake from the Tudor era made with 300ml of Guinness? Yes, please!
  • Here’s the link to the Buttered Beere recipe from 1588 from ‘The Good Huswifes Handmaide.’ There’s also a link to the 1664 version from ‘The Accomplisht Cook.’
  • The Lambswool Wassail recipe came from Oakden, and my brother’s kitchen right before we bid farewell to Auld Reekie. Yum-o.
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WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Waits

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Waits

T-minus one week to Christmas! Shall we go a-caroling?

Waits

Musicians of the lower order, who in most towns play under the windows of the chief inhabitants at midnight, a short time before Christmas, for which they collect a christmas-box from house to house. They are said to derive their name of waits from being always in waiting to celebrate weddings and other joyous events happening within their district.

Christmas-Carols by Henry Heath, 1835, The Lewis Walpole Library.

In my search to find out what Regency celebrants would sing – or have sung to them – while performing as waits at Christmas, I discovered a wonderful recording of two songs: The Gloucester Wassail and The Holly and the Ivy. While there are many more familiar Christmas songs to choose from during the Regency era (such as Greensleeves or Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella), I’ll leave those for other pens to illuminate. I’ve included links to other articles on those very songs, and others, but will focus my attention on the two mentioned above.

During the Georgian era, people would go from house to house singing the wassail song and carrying a wassail bowl, both of which were originally called waysail. Some carolers might use the bowl to hold actual drink or collect money, but most used it as a decoration, adorning their bowl with ribbons, berries, and greenery. This custom of “waysailing” was first noted in publication in the Times Telescope in 1813 Gloucestershire; however, the song is believed to date from as early as the middle ages. Nearly every village added their own lyrics to the song or tailored their customs to fit their burgh, but the general practices were the same, and remained relatively unchanged until the mid-20th century. The most popular version of the song remains as follows:

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.

Here’s to our horse, and to his right ear,
God send our master a happy new year:
A happy new year as e’er he did see,
With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.

So here is to Cherry and to his right cheek
Pray God send our master a good piece of beef
And a good piece of beef that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee.

Here’s to our mare, and to her right eye,
God send our mistress a good Christmas pie;
A good Christmas pie as e’er I did see,
With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.

So here is to Broad Mary and to her broad horn
May God send our master a good crop of corn
And a good crop of corn that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee.

And here is to Fillpail and to her left ear
Pray God send our master a happy New Year
And a happy New Year as e’er he did see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee.

Here’s to our cow, and to her long tail,
God send our master us never may fail
Of a cup of good beer: I pray you draw near,
And our jolly wassail it’s then you shall hear.

Come butler, come fill us a bowl of the best
Then we hope that your soul in heaven may rest
But if you do draw us a bowl of the small
Then down shall go butler, bowl and all.

Be here any maids? I suppose here be some;
Sure they will not let young men stand on the cold stone!
Sing hey O, maids! come trole back the pin,
And the fairest maid in the house let us all in.

Then here’s to the maid in the lily white smock
Who tripped to the door and slipped back the lock
Who tripped to the door and pulled back the pin
For to let these jolly wassailers in.

The second song I’m profiling is familiar around the world to this day – The Holly and The Ivy. Holly and ivy have been the go-to decorations for British churches at Advent and Christmas since the 15th century, so it’s only natural a song would arise celebrating these beloved plants. Holly is often called Christ’s Thorn, while the ivy is said to symbolize Mary and her loving support of her divine Son. The words of this carol were first published in anonymous broadsides in Birmingham in the early 19th century, with William Hone first to document the title of the song in his 1823 publication, Ancient Mysteries Discovered. He dated the origin of the lyrics to the mid-17th century.

Ancient Mysteries Described by William Hone, 1823.

Various early 19th century sources do not provide music to accompany the lyrics, though by 1868 carolers are directed to sing The Holly and The Ivy to the tune of an unspecified “old French carol.” That’s not terribly helpful to the modern singer. The music we hear accompanying the lyrics today is immediately familiar to the listener’s ears, at a bare minimum, as a Christmas-y tune.

First verse from anonymous broadside of The Holly & Ivy, published by H. Wadsworth, Birmingham, 1814-1818.

For your delectation, I present The Gloucester Wassail sung by the Waverly Consort, and The Holly and the Ivy sung by The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge.

And for those of a more modern nature, may I present English rock band Blur’s version of The Wassailing Song, presented and arranged by Gold, Frankincense, and Blur. So cool.

Let’s all go a-wassailing!