Wassailing used to happen in Britain around Christmas time: it was a custom for groups of people to gather together and share a large bowl of warmed drink, usually a warmed or ‘mulled’ apple cider, with the call ‘Waes Hael!’ meaning good health being shouted before everybody drank it down. The original wassail cup had mulled ale, curdled cream, eggs, roasted apples and spices.
Using apple juice or flat cider is a much better take on the original. Mulling any liquid is just gently heating it up prior to drinking it, with herbs and spices to add flavour. If you use alcohol, do not let the liquid boil, or any alcoholic power will evaporate and, in the case of mulled wine, it will soon turn bitter. You want it to reach just below boiling point, so the moment you see the slightest bubble, turn the heat well down and leave to warm.
Mulled Apple Juice or Cider
3 litres apple juice OR
2 litres flat cider and 1 litre apple juice
2 cinnamon sticks
2 whole allspice berries
2 star anise flowers
2 whole cloves
1 orange, thinly sliced
1 apple, cored and sliced
Optional rum or apple brandy
Place all the ingredients in a large pan and gradually bring to a very gentle simmer. Add sugar to taste if necessary, and a shot of alcohol if serving to non-driving adults.
Wassailing is still done in some counties of the UK, usually around Christmas or just after. In some places, it’s done as a way to bless the orchards and ensure a good crop that year. I just think wishing people good health is a really kind thing to do. It is no use having all the gold in the world if you haven’t got the health to enjoy it.
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