Saturday, December 29, 2012

Wassail, Wassail, All Over the Town

This image comes from the Legendary Dartmoor website.
           It's not too late to go a-wassailing, you know. Through Twelfth Night, you can go 'round the neighbors, caroling and wishing them love, joy, and a happy New Year. If you expect them to ply you with wassail, though, probably best to warn them ahead of time, wassail not being commonly made in many places these days.

          In an attempt to bring back the oh-so-festive tradition of standing out in the cold singing for grog, I am herewith publishing my wassail recipe (sometimes referred to as "Lamb's Wool"). It is an authentic 17th-century recipe that I think is excellent tasty. K thinks it tastes like 17th-century sweatsocks. Try it and see what you think:

          "To make Lamb's Wool. To every quart of good ale put a pint of white wine, and heat them well together. Then put in cinnamon and nutmeg grated and sugar [1/4 cup sugar per bottle of wine—which I have to warn you is more than a pint, so make your adjustments accordingly], with roasted crab apples and if you will some toasts to float thereon, and serve it forth in a bowl very hot."

          I recommend using a fruity but not sweet wine, nothing too expensive. I can't give you much help on the amounts of cinnamon and nutmeg because it's been a long time since I've made it (see "sweatsocks," above), and I didn't note amounts on the recipe. The chances that you will have crab apples of the kind that would have been used at the time are vanishingly small, but I've had good results with baking Gala apples until soft and then putting a half or quarter in a mug and pouring the Wassail over. Can't help you with the toasts, as I've never gone for the old custom of soaking dry bread in whatever was to hand to make it more palatable.

          If my wassail recipe makes your wassailers pelt your house with eggs, you could try serving them mulled wine next year, which has K's stamp of approval, and is also a nicely festive holiday tipple:

          Make a syrup by boiling for 5 minutes 2 1/2 cups sugar, 1 1/4 cups water, 4 dozen whole cloves, 6 sticks cinnamon, 3 crushed nutmegs, the peel of 3 lemons, and the peel of 2 oranges. Strain the syrup and add to it 4 cups hot lemon or lime juice. Heat well, but don't boil, and add 4 bottles red wine. Serve hot.
          Love and joy come to you, and to you your wassail too.

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