19 December, 2018
Wassail (Mulled Cider)
Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green,
Here we come a-wand’ring
So fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail, too,
And God bless you, and send you
A Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year
Most people have heard the song Here We Come A-Wassailing at some point in their lives. The practice of wassailing has changed some since the composition of the song, sometime in the mid-1800s. Wassailing was very similar to the caroling some of us do today. Back then, the poor would go door to door singing and wishing the homeowners good health, hopefully in exchange for some goodwill in return. The homeowner might offer the singers some food, a few moments’ warmth inside their home, or a drink of wassail to stave off the chill.
Wassail isn’t a term many people throw around in casual conversation in 2018, so if you’re unfamiliar with it, you’re not alone. Much like mulled wine, wassail is a spiced alcoholic beverage, traditionally including apples, mead, citrus, and spices to create a hot, cozy drink to get people through chilly winter nights. The practice of drinking this mulled cider has been around since Medieval times, when the beverage was consumed to ensure a healthy cider apple harvest the following fall. The name derives from Old English “was hál” and the Anglo-Saxon greeting, “wes þú hál,” meaning “to your health.”
The earliest versions of the drink used warmed mead (honey wine) and often featured roasted crab apples, and it was originally drunk on Lammas Day, which marked the first day of the wheat harvest. Later versions shifted away from mead in favor of wine that had been mulled with spices, topped with slices of toast to soak up some of the liquid. Modern recipes sometimes use wine but often call for a base of fruit juice, cider, or ale and frequently include apples, oranges, spices, and sometimes brandy or sherry. Some modern recipes also call for the addition of a beaten separated egg to thicken the drink. Regardless of the time period, wassail has always been traditionally served in large, ornate wassail bowls.
Now that you know a bit of the history behind this age-old beverage, I’d like to share with you a recipe and toast to your health, dear readers!
3 small Apples
3 tbsp Sugar
13 Cloves (whole)
2 quarts Apple cider (unfiltered apple juice also works)
2-3 shots Vodka
1/2 cup Brandy
1 tbsp Powdered ginger
1 tsp Powdered nutmeg
1/2 tsp Ground allspice
2 sticks Cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a single baking sheet.
Peel the apples and scoop out the core, leaving the bottom intact so you have a well in the center. Pour a tablespoon of sugar into each well and place the apples on the baking sheet. Stick the cloves into the orange and place that on the baking sheet as well before putting the fruit in the oven for 40 minutes.
While the fruit bakes, pour your cider and alcohols into a large pot and warm them over low heat. Don’t bring it anywhere near a boil, or you’ll lose the alcohol! As that warms, whisk in the ground spices and plop in the cinnamon sticks. Cover and keep warm. Once the fruit has come out of the oven, add it to the liquid and let it sit covered over heat for another 5 to 10 minutes before serving by the hot mugful. Wassail is best enjoyed with friends and loved ones, so raise a toast to their health and drink up!