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- Prep 5min
BySugar and Charm
Updated March 20, 2017
teaspoon whole allspice
Add all of the ingredients into a stock pot and bring to a boil for 5 minutes.
Let it simmer for 15-20 until the spices can blend into the juice.
You can leave it simmering as your guests arrive and serve hot or remove from heat and serve room temperature.
For a little twist, add a splash of rum!
Garnish with cinnamon sticks and orange slices.
Nutrition InformationNo nutrition information available for this recipe
More About This Recipe
- Make your holiday party warm and festive with this ruby red, deliciously, hot cranberry and apple beverage.Cranberry Wassail combines cinnamon and other seasonal herbs to give it a wintery taste and feeling. When it's burning on the stove it fills the room with seasonal aromas. Perfect for a holiday party because you can make it before your guests arrive and have a stress-free drink to serve!For a little twist, you can add in a little rum and serve it as a warm traditional cocktail. It's super easy to make with just a few ingredients and spices.
Cranberry Wassail: A Drink to Your Health
Most of the holiday food traditions in my family seem to involve oranges. October through January is citrus season in southeastern Louisiana, or at least in my parents’ garden, so both Thanksgiving and Christmas are celebrated with plenty of citrusy dishes like ambrosia, cranberry relish (with raw orange peel included), lemon pies, and wassail.
During the holidays my mother often brews up a pot of wassail, and I grew up hearing the word and associating it with both her hot, spiced tea and orange drink and with the first line of the carol, “Here we go a-wassailing.” I thought it had something to do with caroling, but I didn’t really give it a thought beyond that.
As it turns out, wassail as a noun and a verb has a long history in England, predating the celebration of Christmas, and has virtually nothing to do with tea or even oranges.
Wassail started out as an Old English greeting, was hál, and meant “be hale” or “be of good health.” Along the way it became both a drink of spiced ale or wine and a drinking salutation or toast in fact, our use of the word toast comes from the practice of floating pieces of toast in the wassail bowl. Wassailing as a activity may have begun from the practice of toasting and drinking from a common bowl but in feudal times it evolved into a sort of combination of door-to-door caroling and trick-or-treating. Peasants would visit their feudal lords and offer their blessing, or wassail, in expectation of being given food and drink:
“Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too
And God bless you and send you
a Happy New Year”
I think of my version of wassail as “New World” because instead of wine or ale, I’ve used fruit juices, including juice from cranberries, a North American ingredient that wasn’t available in Europe until the 1800’s. I’ve left out the tea that my mother uses–as well as the generous amount of sugar that she adds to sweeten it–and stuck to 100% juice: apple juice or non-alcoholic cider and a cranberry juice blend that does not contain added sugar. A handful of cranberries brightens up the color and long simmering brings out the spices, while a little brandy added at the end, if you like, carries on the tradition of wassail as an alcoholic drink.
If you’re interested in the long and varied history of wassailing, there’s plenty of information be found in Wassailing Through History and in this Wikipedia article. And, if you’re interested in more traditional types of wassail drinks, check out the spiced brown ale recipe at Accidental Hedonist or the Madeira and ale version by Alton Brown (which contains eggs and gets a bad review from at least one blogger).
Wassail, everybody! And Happy Holidays!
What is a Christmas Wassail?
Wassail is a hot punch or mulled cider, served with or without alcohol.
There are so many lost traditions of the past. Very few remain today, such as the burning of a Yule log, stringing popcorn, and singing carols. The drinking of the wassail is one tradition that has stood the test of time and is a great way to bring in the New Year!
the hero, far-hidden no harp resounds,
in the courts no wassail, as once was heard.
Another earlier recording took place in 1066, during a toast before the Battle of Hastings
Pass the bottle and drink healthy
Drink backwards and drink to me
Drink half and drink empty.
Generally drunk from a bowl and shared with guests, friends, and family, the earlier recipes included mead, mulled cider, or brandy. Partakers would dip out of a community bowl as they toasted “Wassail!”
Slow Cooker Easy wassail Recipe
- 8 cups (2L) cider
- 2 cups (500 ml) cranberry juice
- 1/3-2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon aromatic bitters
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon whole allspice
- 1 small orange, sliced
- 1 cup (250 ml) rum
In 4-6-quarts (406 l) slow cooker, combine all ingredients. Stir well.
Cover the cooker and cook on low-heat setting for 4-8 hours.
Turn off the slow cooker and open the lid. Stir the wassail well and pour into cups. Serve warm
Rum Apple Cider Wassail
The word wassail comes from the salute waes hail, which was a common Medieval English greeting, and even farther back from a pre-Norman conquest Anglo-Saxon toast meaning "be in good health." From those beginnings, the term wassail was applied to a traditional, hearty drink of hot mulled fruit cider flavored with spices. The warm beverage was an essential part of the ritual of wassailing, a popular drinking and singing tradition in southern medieval England. The ceremony was meant to secure a good apple harvest in the following year by singing to the orchard trees. Later, wassailing also became known as the tradition of going door-to-door greeting neighbors with song during the winter holidays.
The earliest recorded recipes of wassail included warmed mead, an ale brewed with honey, which was then brewed with roasted crab apples. Later, the beverage became a mulled cider made with sugar and various spices like cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Today, wassail recipes are abundant, with home cooks putting their personal twists on the traditional historical drink. Modern recipes can begin with wine, fruit juice, or mulled ale with brandy or sherry added. Fresh apples or oranges are often added to the brew.
Our wassail recipe, which appears in the Country Inn and Bed & Breakfast Cookbook by Kitty and Lucian Maynard, calls for easy-to-find ingredients like apple cider and cranberry juice and gets its kick from optional rum and aromatic bitters. This drink is perfect for a party, can be served like a punch, and fills the house with wonderful, spicy aromas. Fresh non-alcoholic apple cider from a local apple orchard or cider mill is best, but you can substitute with store-bought ciders available year-round as well. This rum version is sure to warm you through any cold weather but is especially popular during the Christmas and New Year's holidays.