Mmmhmm. Somewhere in October I make my first batch of Wassail. I make it often in those three lovely holiday months. The smell makes everyone gravitate to the kitchen and ask when itíll be ready. It sits in a slow-cooker right next to the ďrealĒ hot chocolate, and is almost as popular. For parties I like to put blobs (read dollops, itís fancier) of spiced whipped cream into the bowl. Itís good for Halloween too, with plastic spiders floating in it, of course! And itís mandatory for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.
I call this drink wassail because my mother referred to it by that term when I was a child. But in fact it is closer to mulled cider, though even this isnít fully accurate. Actually, wassail is a drink that has come down to us from the middle ages. It contains ale, baked apples, sometimes toast, and beaten egg. Cider in the US and Canada refers to apple juice that is freshly pressed, raw without any pasteurization or preservative measures taken. In Britain, cider is an alcoholic beverage, what to Americans would be hard cider. Mulling is simply the process of preparing a drink by spicing and heating it.
Call it what you will, just save some for me! Hereís my recipe for a large group:
- In a large pot or slow cooker pour a good 96 oz of Apple Juice and 4-6 Cups Orange Juice
- Begin to heat on medium, but do not allow it to boil beyond a simmer
- 4 cinnamon sticks (or a couple of teaspoons ground. Begin with one and add more, as needed)
- 2 teaspoons Whole Cloves (or about 1 teaspoon ground)
- 1-2 teaspoons Allspice
- 1-2 teaspoons Nutmeg.
- Ĺ Cup Brown Sugar
- ľ Cup Lemon Juice
- Stir and allow to heat, still not more than a simmer, for at least one hour before serving.
For a long celebration I keep the batch on the stove all day long.
Hint--I used to float thin slices of oranges and lemons on the top, until one Christmas day I failed to keep the heat down and the pith (white stuff) on the citrus made the whole batch bitter.