Wassail

Happy New Year, Kaki!

Alas, I’m sitting at home sick this New Years Eve, but thankfully it’s given me time to A) catch up on my PBS watching, and B) start my recap of the foods I made for Cooper’s baby shower earlier this month!

I was in charge of snacks and drinks for the shower; Steph did desserts, Holly did games, Claire had the group gift and fruit salad under control.  And since we were doing a children’s book theme, we had a kids book for each item!  Soon I’ll be posting the Cloudy With A Chance of (Cocktail) Meatballs, the Green Eggs and Ham Mini Quiches, and Peter Rabbit’s Veggie Tray with Bean Dip.  But today is for the drinks, for which we used Alice in Wonderland (remember the “Drink Me!” bottle that shrank her at the beginning?).

It wasn’t especially cold that day, but I’d thought it would be, so I made a hot wassail that I could serve both spiked and un-spiked.  Thankfully, I’d had a terrific wassail a year ago at a Christmas party, so I emailed Kaye and pleaded asked her to share her recipe.  Here is what she sent me:

I don’t follow a recipe for the wassail, but here’s my process.  Stud an orange with cloves. Pour equal amounts of apple cider and cranberry juice into a percolator or a stock pot and add the orange. Add additional mulling spices to taste (you can use the Williams-Sonoma blend or your own mixture of cinnamon sticks, allspice, and nutmeg). Gently heat for several hours. Best when heated the day before, cooled in the fridge, and then reheated on serving day.

And with that, I was off and running!

Cranberry Juices

One note on cranberry juices: I bought three brands to try: L&A, Ocean Spray, and Cranberry Naturals.  L&A contains apple and cranberry juices, and to me tasted mostly like apple; I didn’t use it.  The Ocean Spray contains cranberry, grape, apple, and pear juices, and was more tart than the L&A but was still pretty apple-y.  Nonetheless, it went into the pot.  The Cranberry Naturals was my favorite; it contains only cranberry juice, and was just as tart at the Ocean Spray, but was also less sweet.  I know those sound like obvious opposites, but it really wasn’t, it really tasted not more tart, just less sweet, an almost clean taste I’d call it.  It was quite good.

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Wassail

Makes two gallons

Ingredients:

  • 1 large orange
  • 15 cloves, whole
  • 12 allspice berries, whole
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 and 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1 gallon apple cider
  • 1 gallon cranberry juice (see discussion of brands above)

Use a toothpick to prick the outer skin of the orange.  Insert the whole cloves into these “pilot holes”, if you will.  Cut the orange in half and put it into your largest stock pot.  Add the allspice berries, cinnamon sticks, and fresh ginger slices to the pot as well.

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Add the cider and cranberry juice to the stockpot.  Heat the mixture over medium-high heat until it simmers, then cover and turn heat down to medium (even medium-low) to keep the mixture at just a simmer for about three hours.  (I’m sure you could make this in your crockpot, but I didn’t have one big enough!)

Give it a stir every hour or so, flipping the orange so the cloves are submerged after the first hour.

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To serve, either serve straight from the stockpot, or you can cool the wassail in the fridge for a day or two and then heat up in a crockpot or stockpot when ready to serve.  We served from two separate crockpots, one as is, and one spiked with 1 cup of apple brandy.

Crockpots of wassail

Happy New Year, my dear!  Thanks for embarking on this blogging adventure with me.  Here’s to 2014!

–Caitlin

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