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So what is wassailing really all about? For a bit of background (according to Readers Digest), “The Christmas spirit often made the rich a little more generous than usual, and bands of beggars and orphans used to dance their way through the snowy streets of England, offering to sing good cheer and to tell good fortune, if the householder would give them a drink from his wassail bowl or a penny or a pork pie or let them stand for a few minutes beside the warmth of his hearth. The wassail bowl itself was a hearty combination of hot ale or beer, apples, spices and mead, just alcoholic enough to warm tingling toes and fingers of the singers.”
So this year, if you’re considering serving a hot holiday beverage to your guests, why not consider serving wassail in a pretty punch bowl?
Here follow two recipes for wassail—one with hard cider and brandy, the other without alcohol.
This traditional wassail recipe features hard cider, sugar-roasted apples, brandy and sweet spices. It is a simple, old-fashioned recipe. Serves 6
4 small apples
1 cup unrefined cane sugar
1 medium orange
13 whole cloves
2 quarts hard apple cider
1/2 cup brandy
1 tbsp powdered ginger
1 tsp grated nutmeg
6 allspice berries
2 cinnamon sticks
6 large eggs (separated)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Scoop out the core of the apples without fully penetrating the apple; a melon baller works well. Fill each apple with about a tablespoon of unrefined cane sugar. Place the apples in the baking sheet. Stud an orange with 13 cloves and place it on the baking sheet. Bake the apples and orange together for 40 minutes.
While the apples and orange bake, pour apple cider and brandy into a heavy-bottomed stock pot and warm over moderately low heat. Whisk in powdered ginger and grated nutmeg. Do not bring the wassail to a boil.
Cut a square of muslin or cheesecloth, and place allspice and cinnamon into the square; tie with 100% cotton cooking twine and float this sachet of spices in the wassail as it warms.
Beat egg yolks until light in color and set aside. In a separate bowl, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold egg yolks into whites, then temper the eggs by slowly pouring one-half cup wassail into the eggs. Remove the spice sachet from the wassail and pour in eggs. Transfer to a punch bowl. Float baked apples and oranges in the wassail and serve by the mug.
Non-alcoholic wassail punch
2 quarts apple cider
2 cups orange juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
12 whole cloves
4 cinnamon sticks
1 pinch ground ginger
1 pinch ground nutmeg
In a slow-cooker or a large pot over low heat, combine apple cider, orange juice and lemon juice. Season with cloves, ginger and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer. If using a slow cooker, allow to simmer all day. Serve hot.