What a marvellous dessert, the trifle, and how English, not only in the liberal quantities of fruit, jelly and nuts it uses, but in its self-deprecating name, which belies its true nature; for a trifle, properly prepared, can be the most delightful sweet in the world. Although we featured another dessert using cream and fruit in the last edition, here is another one, adapted by a forward-thinking friend, to rescue you from the post-New Years’ doldrums. All the ingredients can be obtained even in the depths of winter. The idea is to layer the dessert in a clear bowl so that it looks colourful and party-worthy.
1 pound cake (does not have to be homemade)
1 large tin of sliced peaches
1 packet of frozen raspberries
½ cup of sherry or brandy
Bird’s custard (about two cups, or more to taste)
1 container of whipping cream, whipped up
2 packets or 1 large packet of raspberry gelatine
Nuts (pecans or walnuts)
Makes one very large company-sized trifle.
Start the trifle 12-24 hours before serving so that the flavours can mix properly. Partially thaw the raspberries. Slice the pound cake and line the bottom of a large glass bowl with it. Then sprinkle the cake with the sherry or brandy. Pour the gelatine into a bowl and add 2 ½ cups of hot water to it, disregarding the instructions on the packet. Pour the hot mixture over the liquor-soaked cake. Layer on top of the gelatine-soaked cake the nuts, the sliced peaches and the still partially frozen raspberries. Add enough custard to layer generously over this and then cover the whole thing with whipped cream. Place in the refrigerator to set, and serve about a day later.--Isabel Taylor
In many parts of England, including Sussex, Devon, Somerset, Worcestershire and Kent, the old custom of apple-tree wassailing has recently taken place. Dating back to pre-Christian times, this custom involves drinking to the health of the apple-trees and/or sprinkling the tree with cider or the contents of the wassail bowl (spiced ale or punch) to ensure a good harvest in the autumn. A good deal of drinking on the part of the wassailers tends to accompany the ritual, and after the ceremony they make a lot of noise, usually by banging on pots and pans, to frighten away the evil spirits of the orchard. (The word “wassail” itself derives from the Anglo-Saxon greeting “Waes hal (or hale)!”, meaning “Be healthy!”) The time at which the custom takes place varies depending on region, but it is most often associated with the date of “Old Christmas,” January 6.
A Sussex Apple-Tree Wassailing Chant:
Here's to thee, old apple tree, May'st thou bud, mayst thou blow. Hat full, caps full, bushel, bushel bags full, And my pockets full too. Here stands a good old apple tree. Stand fast, root; bear well, top. Every twig, apples big, Every bough, apples enough. Hats full, caps full, four and twenty sacks full.