Jane for Spirit - Wassail - Spice up your cider

Posted by Stephaney Oberon on

The first time I remember tasting Wassail was at an art sale in September in Iowa. This spiced hot beverage was self-serve out of one of those vintage electric coffee percolators with a lift handle. Only it wasn't vintage at that time. I filled what was no doubt a styrofoam cup and brought the steaming hot liquid to my lips. On first sip I was hooked. It was like sipping the holidays. Autumn and Yuletide wrapped up into one special moment. 

The term “wassail” can trace its origins to pre-Christian Britain. Anglo-Saxon tradition included a New Year celebration in the halls of the Lord of the Manor, including a mighty feast with a giant bowl of a sort of punch: a mix of cider, ale and mead infused with bountiful spices and crab apples. The Lord would toast those present with the cry of waes hael, meaning “be whole” or “good health”, and the hearty response would be drink hael. (use your imagination) 

The idea of wassailing—blessing, toasting, sharing and giving thanks during the Yuletide period—has continued through the centuries. The Victorians seized on its spirit of generosity by endorsing the concept of wassailing from door to door—poorer folk singing songs in return for charitable gifts, rather than begging. This soon morphed into the ever-popular Christmas caroling. And, of course, the much enjoyed winter warmer, mulled cider. (Italics excerpted from Ciderology by Gabe Cook) 

When I am seeking a warm spicy, dairy-free cuppa during the autumn and winter months, I make an easy and quick version of Wassail. I warm apple cider on the stove and add in my pre-mixed mulling spices. You can use the recipe below, or read on to make a super simple spiced cider. 

Here is the recipe for stay-at-home Wassail for 1-2 persons

  • 1-2 cups apple cider (use the fresh pressed cider in the refrigeration section of your grocery)
  • 1 tspn whole cloves 
  • 1 cinnamon stick or 1 tspn cinnamon chips
  • 1 tspn allspice
  • 1 star anise
  • orange bits (if you dry your own orange peels, use organic as citrus is highly sprayed) or toss in some sliced oranges
  • 1 tspn dried or fresh ginger 

Add these ingredients to the cider in your saucepan and simmer 5 minutes or more. Strain  into a cup and serve with the cinnamon stick. Consider adding the remaining bits to a mason jar, pour some cider over the bits and refrigerate. In the next day or two heat on the stove and pour into your mugs. 

Easy add ons: 

I often pour in a half cup of cranberry juice, or if it is around the holidays, and you have them on hand, use fresh cranberries. You can also add a half cup red wine, more or less, depending on your taste to make a mulled wine. I encourage you to play with this, make it super simple. If you have apple cider add a cinnamon stick, a few cloves, a splash of Orange Juice and be done with it. The idea is to have a spiced beverage ready to sip in just a few moments that is nostalgic and nurturing. 

Click here if you want to purchase your organic mulling spices already mixed and ready to use. 


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