Monday, December 12, 2005

Here we come a Wassailing!

Merry Christmas!
I've blatantly stolen a few recipes from the Renaissance Store here in Tucson, although I'm going to be making some changes (Namely, since I don't drink alcohol, I'm stripping that out and replacing it with similar components.)
The original recipes (and a VERY interesting article on the history of what we refer to as "wassailing") can be found at the Renstore website
A sample:
Like many lasting customs, wassailing is associated with an ancient legend. A beautiful Saxon princess named Rowena offered Prince Vortigen a bowl of wine while toasting him with the phrase, “Waes hael,” which is an Anglo-Saxon phrase meaning “good health.”

In Saxon times you would have said “Waes hael,” not “Waaassup,” to greet or say goodbye to somebody; it literally meant, “be in good health.” By the 12th century, “Waes hael” had become the salutation one offered as a toast, to which the standard reply was, “drinc hail”, “drink to your good health.” (“Hail” is an older form of our modern word “hale,” meaning “health or well-being” and is closely related to our word “hail” meaning “to salute, greet, or welcome.”) Eventually, the word came to be associated with the alcoholic beverage used for toasting, especially the spiced ale or mulled cider that was drunk on Christmas Eve and Twelfth Night.

If you are having a traditional holiday party and want to incorporate this custom, here is the old way to share wassail. While everyone is gathered, shout "Wassail!" before sipping from a large, festively decorated cup. Then pass the cup to your neighbor. That person replies "Drinkhail," to you and takes a sip. He shouts "Wassail!" to the next person, and passes the cup along, giving a kiss to the recipient who says, "Drinkhail!" Though pre-dating Christianity, this kind of cup sharing custom later became known as "the loving cup" in Christian circles. Unlike the church custom, traditional wassail toasting could get very rowdy and flirty. If you don't wish to drink from the communal cup when offered, you may drink from your own cup and pass the wassail cup with a kiss. If you don't want to be kissed on the mouth, turn your cheek or offer your hand.

Anyway; to the modified recipes!

A quick hint: When you will be removing the spices (AKA pretty much all of these recipes,) try bundling them in a cheesecloth bag tied tightly; they'll still lend their flavor to the dish while facilitating easy removal.

Spiced Cider Wassail Bowl

Pre-heating the punch bowl reduces the thermal shock on the bowl and keeps the wassail from cooling too fast.

2 quarts apple cider
½ cup brown sugar
juice of 4 lemons
6 cinnamon sticks
12 whole cloves
12 whole allspice
1 ½ teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 Gallon Orange juice
1 1/4 Cups Pineapple juice
Garnish of orange and lemon slices

1. Combine cider, lemon juice, sugar and spices in pot.
2. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer 20 minutes.
3. Remove spices and add remaining juices. Heat until just below boiling.
4. Meanwhile, heat water in a tea kettle.
5. Fill a punch bowl with the boiling water. Let stand one minute, then empty carefully.
6. Immediately fill the punch bowl with wassail and garnish with floating orange or lemon slices, studded with cloves.
(Serves 8-12)

Ye Olde Ale Wassail

Make serving your wassail a showy affair with songs and noise and holiday flair.

1 quart "Ale" (Mix white Grape Juice and Ginger ale to taste.)
1 quart White grape juice
1 Tbsp. Raspberry or (non-alcoholic) Brandy Extract
grated lemon peel
3 eggs
4 oz powdered sugar (or 1/2 cup, but it's nearly impossible to properly measure powdered sugar by volume.)

1. Heat "ale" to almost boiling with spices.
2. Beat eggs with sugar while "ale" is heating up.
3. Combine whipped eggs and hot "ale" in a large pitcher.
4. Mix White Grape Juice and raspberry extract into another large pitcher and then pour from one to another until mixed well.
5. Pour into a holiday wreathed wassail bowl (or punch bowl). Best served hot! (Serves 8)

Fireside Christmas Wassail

This can be cooked in a dutch oven sitting on the hearth with the fire blazing.

4 cups Ginger ale
3/4 cup White grape juice
1/4 cup Cider Vinegar
3 oz brown sugar
4 apples
peel of ½ lemon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger

1. Wash the apples and peel them just around their waists and stud with a few cloves.
2. Place the apples, brown sugar, and 4 tbsp of the ginger ale into a 3-quart or larger dutch oven.
3. Cover and bake in the oven at 350° F for 25 minutes or place one foot from the fire in an open fireplace and simmer until the apples are tender.
4. Remove the apples to a plate and add the remaining ale, grape juice, and vinegar to the dutch oven; stir in the lemon peel, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger and let simmer for a few more minutes.
5. Put the apples back in the wassail and serve warm.
(Serves 4)


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