WTF is Wassail?! We Figure it Out , and Show You How to Make Some

created at: 12/13/2010

Sugar plums… Figgy pudding… A Dickens goose…

We all know these things exist, and have something to do with Christmas, but in the days of multl-flavored candy canes, pre-cooked hams, and eggnog from a carton, their actual meaning is beyond most contemporary celebrations. But we can guess a bit: we know sugar and plums, figs and pudding, geese. 

But no old-school, carol-inspired foodstuff is more perplexing than that we know from:

Here we come a-wassailing among the leaves so green;Here we come a-wand’ring, so fair to be seen.

Love and joy come to you, and to you your wassail too;And God bless you and send you a Happy New YearAnd God send you a Happy New Year.

So, WTF is wassail, and why would you ever want to make it? Well, here’s a hint: it’s beer! AND wine!

If you wanna take the easy (i.e. non-traditional route), wassail can be, more-or-less, mulled apple cider with fruit juice added, such as this recipe from CDKitchen:

  • 1 gallon apple cider
  • 27 whole cloves
  • 8 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 quart pineapple juice
  • 1 can (6 ounce) frozen orange juice concentrate

But, if you do a bit more research, you’ll find that the old school, English wassail delicious enough to sing about is actually a wine and ale based punch, slow cooked with roasted apples, spices, and toast floating in it.

Now, this is something actually worth getting excited about.

Wassail is thus named from a salutation, Waes hael, which translates as “be well” or “be in good health.” Young women would walk around with a wassail bowl, going from door-to-door and sharing wishes and cheer, as well as a mugfull. So, you wish someone some good health, and then you toast to them a warm, spicy punch. Festive, no?

As far as recipes worth making, we found two which are prepared in a slow cooker:

created at: 12/13/2010

There’s this option from Chow, which is based in cider, but spiked with Calvados, an apple brandy from the Normandy region of France.

But we’re more excited about this seemingly more traditional recipe from Alton Brown, which utilizes a whole six-pack of ale, a bottle of madeira wine, and spiced, baked apples, and six eggs!