The Romans are credited with first introducing spiced wine or beer to celebrations in Eastern Europe. Today wine or cider is generally used. And what adds festivity to the air like the spicy sweet aroma of slowly simmering wassail?
Wassail is not difficult to make. It can be simmered on the stovetop or in a crockpot.
1 gallon apple cider
1 quart cranberry juice
2 teaspoons whole allspice
2 tablespoons whole cloves
2 sticks cinnamon
1 large orange
3/4 cup brown sugar
Stud the orange with the whole cloves by pressing the pointed ends into the orange. This takes some time and makes your thumb sore but it makes a stunning presentation them you are ready to serve the wassail.
Pour the juices into a large kettle or crockpot. Add the brown sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the allspice and cinnamon. Float the clove-studded orange on top.
Simmer on low for at least two hours and up to four hours. Or if using a crockpot covers and turn on high for 3 hours then turn down to low and remove the lid. Hold on low until ready to serve.
Strain the spices from the liquid. Return the clove-studded orange along with the liquid to the kettle or crockpot. Simmer ten minutes longer and serve hot.
This makes a stunning centerpiece when served in a punch bowl but it cools off quickly. You can reserve some of the liquid in your kettle and keep it hot to add when needed. For a less formal presentation serve it right out of your crockpot.
This wassail is very versatile. Try using orange juice or pineapple juice in place of cranberry juice. Or try using hard apple cider or add 1-3 cups of sherry. Use your imagination! You can also use less or even no brown sugar. Just make it to suit your tastes.
I have yet to meet the person who can turn down a hot spicy cup of wassail on a cold winter day! And since it is fun and easy to make, why not make it a tradition at your holiday parties?