This is both a drink and a desert. Its name comes from the 15th century word ‘hodge-podge’, which means mixture. The preparation for this should really start in early summer when the first strawberries are ripening. These are the first of the fruits to be stored in the hodgkin, but as the year marches on we can cheat and buy some strawberries and raspberries and any other fruit, as not many are lucky enough to have an orchard. It is really up to you what fruit you add, but for it to celebrate the seasons it is good to layer the fruit in the order they ripen through the year. It will take 2-3 months to mature, so it needs to be started soon if you want to consume it at Christmas time.
You will need a large stone or glass jar that can be easily sealed. The hodgkin can weigh up to 2.5kg/5lb, but it is up to you how large you make it. Use only ripe, perfect fruit and wash each well before use.
You will need between 225g/8oz-450g/1lb each of the following fruits or a selection of them, the total weight being about2.5kg/5lb:
peaches and apricots, stoned and sliced
plums, stoned and quartered
ripe pears, cored and sliced
1kg/2.2 lb caster sugar
1-1/2 bottles brandy, cheap brandy is the best as it seems to give a better final flavour
Place the fruits in the jar, sprinkle sugar and a little brandy over each single layer. If you start with strawberries and work through the various summer fruits, finishing with the autumnal ones.
When you have used up all the fruits sprinkle over the last of the sugar and pour over enough brandy to cover the fruit by 2.5cm/1” in depth. Seal the jar and leave it in a cool place to mature for 2-3 months. Serve the fruit with cream, ice-cream or on their own and drink the liquid which will be a very rich tasting liqueur.
Just imagine sitting in front of a roaring fire after a brisk winter walk, sipping a tankard of mulled ale. This was traditionally given to men who had journeyed for many hours in cold conditions to help revive them. It is a very creamy drink that is warming rather than thirst quenching. It goes very well with a freshly baked warm mince pie.
Sufficient for two glassfuls
600ml/1 pint brown ale
2 teaspoons caster sugar
A little grated nutmeg
A knob of butter
1.Beat the eggs and add 3 tablespoons of the ale.
2.Meanwhile pour the rest of the ale, sugar and nutmeg into a pan and heat gently until just hot.
3.Remove from the heat and stir in the egg mixture. Add the knob of butter and stir well. Serve immediately.
A Wassail Cup
This was traditionally a bowl sent around a friendly gathering of people to bind the company together. But the custom of wassailing was performed after harvesting to encourage the trees to bear more fruit the following year. Some villages would do this on Christmas Eve, hence the reason for it being synonomous with Christmas.
Makes sufficient to serve 8-10 people
4 desert apples
4 bottles brown ale
½ bottle dry white wine
80g/3oz dark brown sugar
1 level teaspoon mixed spice
2 cinnamon sticks
Thin lengths of peel from 1 lemon
1.Heat the oven to 180C/gas4. Butter an ovenproof dish and place the apples in the centre, sprinkle with the sugar and ½ bottle of ale. Cover and bake for 30 minutes until apples are tender.
2.Remove from oven and set aside. Put the rest of the ale and wine in to a pan and stir in the spices and lemon peel.
3.Heat until just simmering and turn off the heat. Place the apples in a punch bowl and pour heated ale over carefully. Serve immediately.
To vary this try stewing the apples and adding this to the heated ale, but using the same quantities of all the other ingredients.
Spicy Fruit Punch
For a non alcoholic drink try this winter version of a summer favourite.
For 8-10 servings
3 apple, peeled and sliced
3 pears, peeled and sliced
4 tangerines, segmented with all the pith removed
100g/4oz grapes, halves and de-seeded
30g/1oz golden caster sugar
1 litre/2.2 pints apple juice
Juice of 2 lemons
575ml/1 pint ginger ale
½ level teaspoon cinnamon
1.Put all ingredients in a large pan and heat gently to just simmering. Stir well and serve at once in a punch bowl.