Drink & Be Merry!

There is one thing I think most of us tend to indulge in over the festive season and that’s a tipple or two of our favourite alcoholic swill! And with more than a pinch of Kitchen Witch in me, standing in the kitchen brewing up a big batch of something warming, fragrant and slightly intoxicating for Kith and Kin on both sides of the hedge is one reason I adore this time of year.  It’s true I love brewing my own wines and meads however that can take time which we don’t always have, so here are a few very easy festive winter warmers suitable for the Kitchen Witch in all of us and each has plenty of opportunity for a little Hubble Bubble!

Smoking Bishop

“A Merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon over a bowl of Smoking Bishop, Bob!” – ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens

This is one of my favorite drinks to make.  Referenced by Charles Dickens in ‘A Christmas Carol’ I pay homage to the writer who spent much of his life writing not 20 minutes car ride from me in the town of Rochester.  Many of the shops and houses here inspired some of his greatest works and around this time of year the town hosts the very popular annual Dickens Christmas Fair.  The Name Bishop comes from the colour of the drink.

you need: 4 Oranges, 1 grapefruit, a handful of cloves, a few cinnamon sticks, a bottle of red wine, a bottle of port, 1/4 Ib sugar.

First stud the oranges with Cloves, as many as you like.  Here you can create magical symbols on the oranges and charge each of them with magical intent.  Place these on a deep baking tray or dish with the grapefruit and bake in a moderate oven until the skins start to brown.  Remove from the oven and place the citrus fruits in a large saucepan.  Add the sugar and cinnamon sticks, cover with wine and warm gently.  When everything is warmed through and smelling divine, remove from the heat and either with your hands or a potato masher crush all the fruit so the juices burst into the surrounding wine.  Pour the mixture through a fine sieve into a clean saucepan.  Add the port to the wine and warm through again. At this point have a taste and add sugar if required.  Serve in mugs with quartered slices of orange.

Mulled Wine

Mulled Wine

The main stay of my yuletide celebrations.  I tend to make at least two bottles worth in one go and bottle it again when cool so its ready for warming whenever I need to.  It goes great with a mince-pie or two!

You Need:  A bottle of cheap red plonk, one orange cut in half, one lemon cut into slices, a handful of cloves, 2 large cinnamon sticks and brown / Demerara sugar.

First stud one half of the orange with cloves (again all the components of the mulled wine can be charged with intent or a special prayer).  Add this to a large saucepan with the sliced lemon, the juice of the other half of the orange and the cinnamon sticks.  Pour over a bottle of red wine (the cheaper the better).  Warm over a gentle heat and stir in the sugar to taste… there is no set amount of sugar in my opinion, it depends on the wine you use and personal preference.  When warm serve immediately or strain through a fine sieve, cool and bottle for re heating later.  You can give these bottles to people as gifts, especially if the wine has been stirred with all those good intentions and fruits and spices blessed with well wishes for the new year!

Mulled Cider

“Stand fast root, bear well top
Pray the God send us a howling good crop.
Every twig, apples big.
Every bough, apples now”

This is a traditional Wassail rhyme from our neighbours in Sussex and Surrey.  Wassailing is a traditional folk custom carried out across the southern counties of England anywhere from Midwinter to twelfth night.  Wassail comes from the Anglo Saxon wæs hæil meaning ‘ Good Health”  and the rite is a joyous occasion where cider is poured from the wassail bowl around the oldest apple tree in the orchard to promote fertility.  A slice of toast is soaked in cider and hung in the tree as an offering to the spirits, loud drumming and gun shot scare off the bad spirits and on the whole the community drink and celebrate the majesty of the Apple, a sacred tree indeed.  Apple orchards were once a common feature here in Kent.  Now with the advent of large supermarkets offering cheaper fruit grown in the warmer climes of the continent many of our beloved orchards have been torn down to make space for more lucrative crops….offices generally!  Kent is famous for its Cox Apple, and I always use these in my Mulled Cider.  I also buy my cider from the Biddenden Vineyards.  They sell, amongst others, Cider called ‘Monks Delight’ which is deliciously spiced and great warmed up if you don’t have time to make your own.

You Need: 2 -3 local apples each studded with cloves,   3-4 pints of cider, 4 large cinnamon sticks, zest of an orange, Dark Rum (to taste), 4 star anise, whole all spice berries (optional)

Add all the above ingredients to a large saucepan.  Simmer gently for about half an hour and serve warm with slices of fresh apple.  If you feel so inclined, take a bottle of the mulled cider and some fresh home-made bread to your local apple orchard and wassail the spirit of the apple.  This is one tradition I think is well worth a revival!

Hedgerow Fizz

The autumn has passed leaving behind a veritable bounty of berries preserved as various alcoholic (and non alcoholic) cordials.  Bucks Fizz is a typically middle class celebration drink made of orange juice topped up with champagne.  I however am not middle class and I have a much more enjoyable take on things.  I always make sloe gin and this year I also made rosehip syrup.  Adding a few mls of either of these to a tall glass and topping up with fizzy plonk or some home-made elderberry fizz certainly warms the cockles!

So there are just a few ways I like to indulge over the festive period.  However before I finish there is one drink which holds a very very VERY special place in my heart.  It’s not alcoholic, it is warm and its something everyone can make.  and that’s a steaming hot mug of tea… any tea…assam, earl grey even chamomile with honey!  Tea warms the soul, comforts and soothes.  As one Witch said during a talk at last years Witchfest International Conference, “When you visit a Witch, there is always tea…even when there is Coffee…there is tea!”

Whatever your pleasure…Eat, Drink and be Merry just remember to share the love with those who make it all possible!

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