History of Wassail and How to Make It

wassail

Wassail is a hot, spiced punch often associated with Yuletide. Historically, the drink was a mulled ale made with sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and topped with slices of toast. Modern recipes begin with a base of wine, fruit juice, or mulled ale, sometimes with brandy or sherry added. Pieces of winter fruits, such as apples or oranges, are often added to the mix. Particularly popular in Germanic countries, the term itself is a contraction of the Middle English phrase wæs hæil, meaning “be healthy”. The origins of the practice of wassailing are closely

While the beverage typically served as “wassail” at modern holiday feasts with a medieval theme most closely resembles mulled cider, historical wassail drinks were completely different, more likely to be mulled beer or mead. Sugar, ale, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon would be placed in a bowl, heated, and topped with slices of toast as sops.

photo by Multi Cultural Cooking Network- Crystal Johnson added ginger to the recipe.

Hence the first stanza of the traditional carol the Gloucestershire Wassail dating back to the Middle Ages:

Wassail! wassail! all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown;
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree;
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee.

At Carhampton, near Minehead, the Apple Orchard Wassailing is held on the Old Twelfth Night (17 January) as a ritual to ask God for a good apple harvest. The villagers form a circle around the largest apple tree, hang pieces of toast soaked in cider in the branches for the robins, who represent the ‘good spirits’ of the tree. A shotgun is fired overhead to scare away evil spirits and the group sings, the following being the last verse:

Old Apple tree, old apple tree;
We’ve come to wassail thee;
To bear and to bow apples enow;
Hats full, caps full, three bushel bags full;
Barn floors full and a little heap under the stairs.

Julmust, a Scandinavian Christmas Soda

Scandinavians are no stranger to a drink that finds its popularity during the Christmas season—julmust.  The words “jul” and “must” are Swedish for “yule” and “juice.”It’s a Scandivanian Christmas soda that is mainly consumed in Sweden. Want an indicator of its popularity in the region? Julmust outsells Coca Cola during the Christmas season and accounts for 50-percent of all soft drink volume during the month of December.

The drink is also served during Easter. None of the ingredients are different, but it goes by a different name—påskmus.The word “påsk” translate to “Easter” in Swedish.

Must is an alternative to beer, and it was created by father and son team, Robert Roberts (father) and Harry Roberts (son). The drink is compared to root beer, but it has a much sweeter taste. It contains carbonated, sugar, water, and hop and malt extract, caramel colouring, citric acid and preservatives. The carbonated beverage is sometimes stored up to a year.

Want to find julmust? You can get it at IKEA and if there is a Wegman’s in your area, check out the Grandpa Lindquist Christmas Soda.

julmust_glasflaska

European Mulled Wine Recipe

 

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Mulled wine, (Gluhwein), is a popular Christmas drink in Austria, Switzerland and Germany. It contains red wine, fruit, cloves and cinnamon and is served hot by street vendors at Christmas Fairs, (Weihnachtmarkt). It is also sold during the ski season on the slopes of many European resorts. 

Mulled Wine Recipe

Ingredients

2 bottles of medium-bodied red wine
1 cup sugar and more to taste
6 cinnamon sticks
15 cloves
grated nutmeg
2 oranges

Directions

Push the cloves into the skin of the oranges, then cut the oranges in half. Pour the wine into a large stainless steel or enamel saucepan and warm over a medium heat. Add the sugar, spices and clove studded oranges. Keep an eye on the wine and turn the heat to very low as soon as it gets close to simmering. You don’t want it to boil or it will lose its alcohol content! Taste for sugar and add more until it tastes right for you. Keep it steaming over a low heat for an hour or so to allow the spices to infuse. Ladle it into glasses or mugs and breathe in the spicy aroma.

Other things you can add to mulled wine:

Star anise, bay leaves, mace, ginger, cardamom, lemon, lime, brandy.