Thursday, December 22, 2005

Warm Holiday Drinks: Wassail

We had a holiday party this past weekend, and I really wanted to serve "traditional" holiday drinks. So I scoured the internets and came up with three excellent concoctions. Here's the first: Wassail.

You know the song, "Here we come a-wassailing among the leaves so green..." But what the heck is wassail?

When I was growing up, my family attended a rural Midwestern Methodist church. Every year after the Christmas sermon, we would exit to the lobby for piping-hot "wassail" served in styrofoam cups. This wassail was something composed of apple juice, pineapple juice, orange juice, and cinnamon. And probably a healthy dose of sugar.

This recipe, found on Epicurious, seemed adult enough to fit the bill. It called for whipped raw egg to be added to the mixture, but all the reviewers said that it wasn't worth it, so I left them out as well. Here's the modified recipe:

10 small apples
10 teaspoons brown sugar
2 bottles dry sherry or dry Madeira (We picked up a brand called Olorosso, at Whole Foods)
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3 cloves
3 allspice berries
1 inch stick cinnamon
2 cups superfine sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup brandy (Raynal VSOP)

Core the apples and fill each with a teaspoon of brown sugar. Place in a baking pan and cover the bottom with 1/8-inch of water. Bake in a 350°F oven for 30 minutes or until tender.
Combine the sherry or Madeira, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice berries, cinnamon, sugar and water in a large, heavy saucepan and heat without letting the mixture come to a boil. Add the brandy. Pour into a metal punch bowl and float the apples on top.

This turned out to be a fantastic recipe, if very alcoholic. It disappeared very quickly.


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