My family has a tradition of drinking wassail around Christmastime. I love the custom because it’s so easy to throw together a big pot of wassail, and it makes the house smell wonderful. My youngest affectionately refers to it as “weasel”, so if he tells you we’re drinking weasel over here, you’ll know what he’s talking about. (Don’t tell my kids, but it’s also kind of healthy compared to most holiday treats.)
During the Regency, the English enjoyed serving wassail on New Years Eve and Twelfth Night. Their recipe was a little different from mine, containing a mix of ale, apples, eggs, cream, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and sugar. They would carry a bowl of wassail into the room and ladle it out while singing the Wassail carol:
Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green,
Here we come a-wassailing
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.
Here’s my recipe:
1 can frozen orange juice
1 can frozen apple juice
6 cans of water
2 sticks of cinnamon
1/4 cup of brown sugar (more or less to taste)
Mix all ingredients together in a big pot on the stove. I usually heat it at medium until it’s almost boiling. Then I turn the heat down to the lowest setting. The longer you leave it on the stove, the better it tastes, but you might have to add more water.
Optional: You can use twice as much apple juice if you prefer.
Another traditional treat that the English enjoyed was gingerbread. Vendors sold gingerbread cookies at fairs, and people in Yorkshire often ate gingerbread cakes at their Christmas feasts. Interestingly, the English have been eating gingerbread since Medieval times. We even have records of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I eating it.
My mother got our recipe for gingerbread cookies from Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. She makes it every year for Christmas, although she has altered the recipe to include honey. The traditional recipe contains 1 ½ cups of molasses and no honey. Children seem to prefer the milder taste this produces.
Mix together the following in a large bowl:
1/3 cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup molasses
3/4 cup honey
2/3 cup water
Mix together in a medium-size bowl :
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
7 cups flour
Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Heat oven to 350. Roll dough 1/3 inch thick on floured surface. Cut with floured cookie cutters. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes.
What are your favorite holiday recipes?