Saturday, December 8, 2007


Wassail--what is it? Wikipedia describes it as a hot spicy drink popular in northern Europe. My mother, an Englishwoman, did not make it although I remember her talking about going "wassailing" as a girl in England. Wassailing

Wassailing is not making the punch--it's the practice of going door to door, singing carols and songs in hopes of (or, in some cases, demanding) food and drink. Homeowners would make the punch to give to the wassailers. Similar to caroling, but with a goal in mind! For a complete guide to wassail customs, songs, toasts, and recipes, see Conrad Bladey's book, Do the Wassail.

So, in case carolers or wassailers come to your door this holiday season, I'm including a recipe for wassail. It's very similar to hot spiced cider that we drink around Halloween.
Here is one of many wassail songs. I found the lyrics and tune online, but the site is no longer available. If you want to hear the tune, call me! I like this particular song because it speaks so well to the tradition of wassailing.

Now Yuletime is comen
And New Year begin
Pray open your doors
And let us come in.

With our wassail, wassail,
Wassail, wassail,
And joy come with our jolly wassail.

O Master and Mistress
Sitting down by the fire
While we poor wassail boys
Are traveling the mire.
This ancient house
We will kindly salute
It is an old custom
You need not dispute.
We are here in this place,
Orderly we stand
We're the jolly wassail boys
With a bowl in our hands.
We hope that your apple trees
Will prosper and bear
And bring forth good cider
When we come next year.
We hope that your barley
Will prosper and grow
That you may have plenty
And some to bestow.
Good Mistress and Master
How can you forbear
Come fill up our bowl
With cider or beer.

Good Mistress and Master
Sitting down at your ease
Put your hands in your pockets
And give what you please.
I wish you a blessing
And a long time to live
Since you've been so free
And willing to give.

This is the version (with chorus) recorded by Pete Kennedy as can Wassel or Wassail Song. #87, p. 214 in Folksongs of Britain and Ireland., Peter Kennedy et. al. eds.,Oak,London,1984. This song has a tune similar to that for Wassails, collected by Cecil Sharp.
You many not want to go out a-wassailing, but you can still make the punch to enjoy over the holidays.

Here's what you need to make Wassail:
1 gallon apple cider
2/3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons whole allspice
2 teaspoons whole cloves
2 three inch cinnamon sticks
2 oranges, studded with cloves (shades of the pomander!)

Heat all ingredients except the clove oranges in a large pan to boiling; then reduce heat to simmer.
Cover and simmer for 20 minutes; strain.
Pour into a small punch bowl or large pitcher and add oranges. Serve hot.

I expect some folks added spirits to the mix, but this one is safe for the whole family. There are many recipes for wassail, but I like this one for its simplicity.

1 comment:

Conrad Bladey (Peasant) said...

My new very huge book
The Book of Wassail
is now out-
get yours today

five volumes perfect bound
bigger than a phone book

Absolutely nothing like it- a great reference and a good read. Essential.

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