“Here we come a-wassailing” is the refrain of an old Christmas song. Though many singers change the words to “Here we come a-caroling.” That, my holiday revelers, would be entirely different thing. If you are “a- wassailing,” then you are drinking a hot, alcoholic punch, long on both history and spices. Caroling is singing, which can, but doesn’t necessarily, result from too much wassailing.
The origin and ingredients of wassail are debatable. However, Sharon Tyler Herbst writes in “ The New Food Lover’s Companion,” that the word “wassail” comes from the Norse phrase “Ves Heill,” which means “to be in good health.” It was common in Europe to raise a glass of wassail as a toast.
Wassail rationally contains ale or wine sweetened with sugar and then laced with spices and roasted apple. Perhaps, an early version of mulled cider? Normally, wassail was served from a punch bowl, which imparts a communal feeling of sharing and good tidings.
Wassail is still a strong tradition in England, where some foodies claim it originated. Indeed, Charles Dickens wrote of the hot drink in several books, including “A Christmas Carol.”
TO MAKE WASSAIL
Simmer 1 gallon apple cider, 8 sticks of cinnamon, 1 lemon, washes and sliced, 1orange, washed and sliced, 1 tablespoon whole cloves and 1 tablespoon allspice in a large pot for 1 to 2 hours.
Then add 1 gallon white wine and 2 cups rum and simmer for about 10 minutes before serving hot. Leave out wine and rum for a non-alcoholic version.