It must be in human DNA. Even those of us who grew up in these temperate climates, with little contact to hearths, chestnuts or frozen water falling from the sky, still have an appreciation, even knowledge, of what this season means to our senses.

And the experience goes back a long way.

This time of year, the ancient Anglo-Saxons were just finishing the apple harvest. The choice was to either use the apples or just let them go bad. The Anglos, being both creative and frugal, decided to create an apple drink, let it ferment a bit, then enjoy it warm in the cold winters.

Wassail, an Anglo-language contraction of waes haeil, meaning “be healthy,” is usually served to friends and neighbors from a large bowl.  

Wassail
1 gallon of apple cider
6 cinnamon sticks
15-20 cloves
3 whole nutmeg seeds
3-4 pieces crystallized ginger, or a small piece of fresh ginger root

Break cinnamon sticks into 2-3 pieces each. Crack nutmeg open with the butt of a knife. Wrap spices into a small pouch of cheese cloth. Tie securely with kitchen string. Place the pouch in a 6-8 quart stock pot with apple cider. Bring to a rigorous boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Spike the cider, 2 parts cider to one part sweet Lustau muscatel sherry, or a sweet cream sherry.  

To garnish: Take Fuji or gala apples and cut into thick wedges. Then, glaze them with orange marmalade, grated ginger and grated fresh cinnamon. Bake at 275-300 degrees until they just begin to brown on the edges and caramelize on the top. Each serving should be topped with grated fresh nutmeg. It is key to this recipe that you use fresh, not powdered, spices.