In December 1991, The Mail featured some ancient recipes from the old counties of Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire.

On the list was what the article said was the oldest recipe of all a Wassail cup.

Originally, was sailing was a pagan ritual the Anglo Saxons used to go out at New Year and drink a toast to a tree.

The toast was 'Was hail,' meaning 'be whole' and was to ensure good fortune and a good harvest.

Later the tradition was continued with groups of carol singers carrying wassail cups to neighbours and being treated to the alcoholic refreshment.

The recipe printed by The Mail was an updated version of one which had been around since the 14th century.

Ingredients: three litres brown ale, 1lb brown sugar, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, two thinly sliced lemons, a bottle of medium sherry and 2lb roasted apples.

Method: simmer 2 pints of ale with sugar and cinnamon stick until sugar is dissolved; add the sherry, the ale and lemon slices, and the spice. Roast apples in medium oven and add them, piping hot, to the ale mixture in a punchbowl or other large container just before serving. The apples will heat the mixture.

In Westmorland, it was customary to offer carol singers something to eat as well as drink and the special fare at that time of the year was a hot and spicy Westmorland Pepper Cake.

It is quite a heavy mixture, some recipes heavier than others because it used oatmeal instead of the flour in the recipe.

The recipe fills an 8 inch cake tin.

Ingredients: 2lbs flour, 2tsp baking powder, 1lb sugar, 1lb treacle, 8ozs butter, 1lb mixed dried fruit, 1oz ground ginger, ½tsp black pepper and 3 eggs.

Method: Rub the butter into the flour and baking powder, add the rest of the dried ingredients, mix together, then beat the eggs and treacle together and combine with the cake mixture. Pour into greased cake tin and bake for one hour in an oven 160 C or Gas mark 3.