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.
Hopefully you’ve heard that one before. Just for the record, wassailing is an ancient English tradition. So ancient that it’s actually Anglo-Saxon, meaning that the people there were doing it before anyone explained to them what Christmas was. It started as a celebration of the apple harvest, and drinking good health to the trees of the orchard that they might give another fruitful harvest next year. As time passed, the wealthy lords and ladies of the countryside would be visited in the colder months of the year by their less fortunate neighbors, and in exchange for good wishes and songs would give them gifts of food and drink. The word wassail comes from the Anglo-Saxon toast “wæs þu hæl” which means “be thou hale” or “be in good health”.
In more recent times, like Victorian England, wassailing was a kind of Christmas caroling where neighbors would go from door to door singing songs in exchange for a nice cup of Christmas cheer. Christmas cheer being a toasty warm mulled wine, ale or cider. From the times of Charlemagne to Charles Dickens, the ancient tradition of bothering your neighbors in the hopes of some free beverages kept going strong, but in recent years the practice has fallen somewhat out of fashion.
Just in case you wanted to keep a pot of something warm and spicy on the stove for any wandering neighbors, relatives or even just yourself this holiday season, we’ve dug up a simple recipe for an easy wassail punch. Now just to clarify, there are many different recipes for wassail. This is mostly because in the thousands of years people have been making it, the ingredients have changed from time to time. Some of the earliest recipes use hard apple cider, apples and other fruits mixed with spices and topped with toast. Yes, toast. More modern recipes can use cider, ale, beer, wine, sherry, port and brandy. Or any combination of the above. Some recipes add beaten eggs to the drink for a frothy and foamy beverage. Some people bake the apples before adding them to the wassail, others just use oranges instead. As long as your recipe has apples, spices and alcohol; you can be sure that it classifies as a wassail. The drink is a warming, spicy draft that is sure to put the spring back into your step after a cold winters day.
Easy Wassail Punch
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
¼ Teaspoon Nutmeg
¼ Teaspoon Ginger
3 Cinnamon Sticks
3 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
½ Cup Sugar
1 ½ Cups Hot Water
2 Cups Cranberry Juice
1 Bottle of Hawk Haven Red Table Wine
Brandy to “Taste”
This is meant to be a quick and easy recipe, and can be prepared on either a stovetop in a large pot, or in a crock pot to simmer all day long.
First combine the lemon juice, nutmeg, ginger, brown sugar, regular sugar, and hot water in a saucepan. Stir the mixture together over high heat just until it boils. While this is cooking wash, but do not peel, the apple and the orange. Cut them in half, and then cut the halves into slices. Once your spices and water are boiling, turn the heat to low or transfer the liquid into a crock pot set to low. Next add the cinnamon sticks, the cranberry juice, the wine, and the sliced fruit. Add just as much brandy as you think the concoction requires, or you can pour a small amount into each glass before you serve the wassail.
Congratulations, you’re done! Now you want to keep the punch hot, but you don’t want it to boil. If it boils, the liquid will reduce and the alcohol will evaporate and you will be left with a thick wassail syrup that’s not really good for anything. The longer the fruit steeps in the wassail, the more of the wonderful flavors it absorbs. Make sure you garnish your cups with the tasty treats, and don’t fight too much over the last apple slice left in the pot!