Saturday, December 29, 2012

Here We Come A-Wassailing

For those of you who don't know, wassailing was a tradition wherein people would walk from house to house singing Christmas carols.  Scholars believe the practice started as an Anglo-Saxon pagan ritual based of an Old English salute - "waes hael" - which basically meant "good health."  In addition to walking along and singing, carolers or wassailers would "beg" for some sort of charitable gift and perhaps a warm beverage as well.  Wassailing traditionally occurs on "Twelfth Night", January 5th or 6th, rather than before Christmas. So if you haven't gone wassailing yet, you still have time.

I managed to start a new Christmas tradition last year when I found this delightful recipe for wassail at the Jane Austen Centre's online magazine.  (I do love trying out historical recipes.)

I did some fiddling and adjusting this year based on how last year's wassail turned out, and everyone agreed it was better than before.  To make this "stronger" you can also mix in brandy while the wassail is heating, but I always serve it on the side, as there are some in my family who prefer to leave out the alcohol.

And yes, we did sing before we drank it.  No, no one got it on video.  Thank God.

Traditional Wassail

  • 1/2 gallon apple cider
  • 3 small (6 ounce) cans of pineapple juice
  • 3/4 cup of hot tea (I used English Breakfast, but you can use any black tea you like)
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • French brandy (optional)
  • Orange slices (for garnish)
  1. Measure out the spices into a coffee filter, and securely twist and tie the filter with thread or string to prevent anything from leaking out.  This creates a spice bag.
  2. Pour the cider, pineapple juice, and tea into a 4 quart pot and stir to combine. Add the spice bag.
  3. Bring to a simmer on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Then reduce the heat to low to keep the wassail hot.
  4. Offer orange slices for garnish - and a slightly stronger citrus flavor.  Offer brandy on the side if anyone wants to add a splash to their cups.
Notes:  This can also be made in a slow cooker.  Combine all ingredients and heat on low for 4-6 hours.  In place of ground cinnamon, a cinnamon stick can be used, and you can also add allspice.

And with that, "may God bless you and send you a happy New Year!"

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