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Holiday Wassail Recipe - Slow Cooker Variations

Wassail, Spicy Gingerbread Cookies and Peppermint Cranberry Pretzels

Wassail, Spicy Gingerbread Cookies and Peppermint Cranberry Pretzels

  • I should start out with three confessions here: 
    • I have never liked Apple juice or cider in any form, even as a kid I hated apple juice, so I fought this recipe for a long time.
    • When we did finally make it, it was the old timey tradition of the drink and a certain Claymation Christmas special that convinced me.
    • These two variations are vastly adapted from an original recipe that I found that supposedly dates back to the 1700's, but while the drink remains faithful in heart, physically, this drink plays around all the time. 

HISTORICAL NOTE:

Traditionally, Wassail was made as part of a Medieval English drinking festival to encourage a strong apple harvest. It is usually made with ale, apple cider, spices and whatever that particular orchard owner felt like adding - berries, fruits, wine, mead... It is usually a strongly alcoholic drink made with the fruits of the previous years' harvest. Wassailing began by tooling around apple orchards with the wassailing bowl, singing incantations to the trees to promote a heathy cider apple harvest. Over time, it evolved to include visiting the townsfolk, still packing a bowl of punch, but the incantations changed to carols and songs and they would typically receive gifts at the homes as they visited. Eventually Wassailing became caroling and these days it's just people watching youtube videos on their phones.

Notes on the recipe:

I still have the original recipe somewhere, but I haven't made it in so long that it's gone missing - I'll post it when I can find it. It was a lot more involved, using cider, mead, baking apples and brown sugar, eggs pecked their way in... It is good, but a little too much work for the end result in my opinion and it's really only good for the one event - great for a party, less so for a couple of days casually enjoying while we deck the halls and trim the trees. So I changed it up, omitting the alcohol and eggs in an attempt to find a blend that kept the character of the original but could be made quickly, cheaply and taste great ladled from a crock pot over a couple of days or reheat from a thermos. 

For those that need/miss the alcohol - Rest assured, I've had this spiked with all sorts of booze - this recipe is very adaptable to add-ins and happily invites all takers to go caroling with it - brandy, whiskey, vodka, scotch, mulled wine, mead even fireball... my personal favorite is a slug of Evan Williams whiskey in the glass and a quick swirl with a cinnamon stick.

I have made this two different ways - both have about the same end cost and result, the variation was a result of living north of Bangor, ME for a while and our difficulty in finding juice concentrate. It's also happy to accept modifications or additions - I'll note our changes to the basic recipe afterwards.


HOLIDAY WASSAIL RECIPE

Concentrate Variation by K. McClanahan

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 Sticks of CInnamon
  • 2t Ground Clove or 3/4t Freshly Ground Clove
  • 3/4c Cranberry Concentrate
  • 3/4c Raspberry Concentrate
  • 3/4c Apple Juice Concentrate
  • 8c Water
  • 1/3c Lemon Juice
  • 1/2c White Sugar
  • 1t Mulling Spices in tea can or cheesecloth baggie
  • A dash of ground black pepper or a few white peppercorns in with the mulling spices

DIRECTIONS:

Combine all ingredients into a large slow cooker. Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours, stirring after one hour to ensure that the sugar has dissolved. If desired, garnish with oranges before serving. Also reheats well from a thermos or in the fridge after being cooked - remove the spice bag and cinnamon sticks before cooling.

NOTES:

  • This is our standby recipe, but over the years we've made a few changes:
    • We always double the batch, which allows you to use a full container of juice concentrate - no measuring needed. 
    • We typically use a container of Cranberry Concentrate and two Raspberry-Apple Concentrates. 
    • When we make this we usually leave it in the crock for 2-3 days and turn it on in the morning to enjoy throughout the afternoon and evening. It blends the flavors nicely, but we found that the lemon juice starts to change, so we usually omit it and we pull the cinnamon sticks and mulling spices the 2nd morning.
    • Sometimes you'll need to add a bit of water if the drink cooks down over the day.
    • Spiking the cups individually works out better than trying to spike the entire bowl.
    • A mix of white and brown sugar or honey is also delicious.

HOLIDAY WASSAIL RECIPE

Juice Variation by K. McClanahan

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 sticks of CInnamon
  • 2t ground clove
  • 32oz Cran-Raspberry Juice
  • 16oz Apple Cider
  • 4c Water
  • 1/3c Lemon Juice
  • 1/2c Granulated Sugar
  • 1t Mulling Spices in tea can or cheesecloth baggie
  • A dash of ground black pepper or a few white peppercorns in with the mulling spices

DIRECTIONS:

Combine all ingredients into a large slow cooker. Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours, stirring after one hour to ensure that the sugar has dissolved. If desired, garnish with oranges before serving. Also reheats well from a thermos or in the fridge after being cooked - remove the spice bag and cinnamon sticks before cooling.  


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