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   How Do You Make Wassail
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By Chris Poh

Perhaps Just Another Creative Way to Get Out of the House

Good master and good mistress,
As you sit beside the fire,
Pray think of us poor children
Who wander in the mire.
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
                                                                -  From “Here We Come a Wassailing”

Wassail as seen in American Public House Review


     Like so many of our holiday traditions, there are conflicting theories and opinions as to the origin of the ritual of wassailing. There does, although, seem to be consensus that the ritual had its routes in an ancient Anglo-Saxon pagan rite of men going off into the woods in early January—with cup in hand—to invoke the blessings of those spirits that might insure a healthy harvest of the following year’s apple crop. The term ‘wassail’ is derived from the phrase ‘waes hael’ which literally means ‘good health.’

     At some point during the third century, as the Christian celebration of Christmas spread throughout Europe, the act of wassailing took on some added dimensions. In England, those of the lower classes would show at the doors of the more fortunate with the hopes of procuring some of their worldly blessing - in what might be viewed as an act of sympathetic shakedown. Later on, as the tradition spread to the American New England colonies, the behavior would often border on intimidating, leading some communities to outlaw wassailing altogether. Perhaps it was the addition of the rum and brandy to the colonist’s wassail bowl, as opposed to the usual mulled ale or cider mix of their English counterparts that fueled this aggressive approach to seasonal revelry. Whatever the case, I suspect that wassailing evolved into just another creative way to escape from the presence of visiting relatives during the holidays,
     “Honey, I’m going out wassailing now, see you and the kids in a couple of hours.”


Below is my favorite recipe for wassail, taken from the colonial food and beverage archives of the Gaspee Days Committee.

COLONIAL HOT CIDER PUNCH,
AKA "WASSAIL"

·    1 Gallon heated apple cider
·    1/2 ounce brandy flavoring
·    1/2 ounce rum flavoring or (even better) 1/2 quart light rum
·    3 sticks cinnamon
·    3 to 6 whole oranges
·    small bag of whole cloves
1.    Simmer mixture with 3 sticks whole cinnamon to melt--DO NOT COOK. 
2.    Allow to cool, pour into punch bowl.
3.    Separately stick whole cloves around entire surface of 3 to 6 whole oranges. 
4.    Place oranges into baking pan with 1/2 inch of water, and bake at 350° for 45 minutes. 
5.    Place oranges into punch bowl
Editors input: like the rum, I would also increase the amount of brandy in the recipe. I think 6-8 ounces should suffice.





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