Friday, January 3, 2014

Here We Go A-Wassaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiling

I can tell you this--wassail is no joke.

I also would add that this centuries old beverage is the only mixology-required-experience beverage I've concocted that I learned about from a song. Little did I know that Dickens and Mannheim Steamroller would require so much of my time this particular post-Christmas dinner and a movie night.

Wassail is one of my favorite songs from Mannheim Steamroller's collection. It makes me feel like I'm in A Christmas Carol and it brings about good tidings of memories from the best years of High School (wearing a private school uniform is kind of the same costuming). The easy description is to say,"Wassail, mulled wine--same thing." No. Not same thing. Not same thing at all.

I suppose you could truthfully compare wassail to mulled wine but this recipe calls for a pure devotion to making wassail in the more contemporary fashion:


6 small Fuji apples, cored
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup water
72 ounces ale
750 ml Madeira
10 whole cloves
10 whole allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick, 2-inches long
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 large eggs, separated


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Put the apples into an 8 by 8-inch glass baking dish. Spoon the brown sugar into the center of each apple, dividing the sugar evenly among them. Pour the water into the bottom of the dish and bake until tender, about 45 minutes.

Pour the ale and Madeira into a large slow cooker. Put the cloves, allspice, and cinnamon into a small muslin bag or cheesecloth, tied with kitchen twine, and add to the slow cooker along with the ginger and nutmeg. Set the slow cooker to medium heat and bring the mixture to at least 120 degrees F. Do not boil.

Add the egg whites to a medium bowl and using a hand mixer, beat until stiff peaks form. Put the egg yolks into a separate bowl and beat until lightened in color and frothy, approximately 2 minutes. Add the egg whites to the yolks and using the hand mixer, beat, just until combined. Slowly add 4 to 6 ounces of the alcohol mixture from the slow cooker to the egg mixture, beating with the hand mixer on low speed. Return this mixture to the slow cooker and whisk to combine.

(Pssst...this is meringue without sugar)

Add the apples and the liquid from the baking dish to the wassail and stir to combine. Ladle into cups and serve.

Here is a list, in no particular order, of what I learned:

1. Madeira is a wine that resembles sherry (didn't know). Wal-mart does not have Madeira (figured as much). Marsala is a decent substitute for Madeira (Wal-mart has it). Marsala is also like sherry. If you haven't had sherry, please note that it is very strong. 

2. You can spoon out apples just like a pumpkin and then put things in it. Until you're instructed to do this, you don't think about it. Then you start wondering what other round edible items are available to eviscerate. 

3. If making wassail for a party, you can tie up little cheese cloth bags of the spices and give them away as parting gifts after tying the recipe to the ribbon. If you love your guests you will advise them how hard it is to make wassail and recommend they use the sachet for potpourri.

4. When you near the end of the wassail, the cheesecloth looks like some sort of giblet bag. Don't be alarmed.

5. This stuff is strong business. Don't make it for just you and another person if you're not planning on staying home to wassle.

We used Starr Hill Grateful in our wassail, which is a local pale ale with a strong, citrus flavor.

All I needed to complete the experience were beer steins. 

Anyway, keeping with New Year's resolutions, we had movie night and invited a few guests. This festive beverage went well with the menu for the evening, steak with orange roasted cauliflower and scallions.

  • 1 head(s) (small; about 1 1/2 pounds) cauliflower, cored and cut into small florets
  • 2 tablespoon(s) olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon(s) olive oil
  •  Kosher salt
  •  Pepper
  • 1 (1 1/2-pound; 1-inch-thick) sirloin steak, cut into 4 portions, or 4 small 1-inch-thick steaks
  • 1 teaspoon(s) chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon(s) cayenne pepper
  • 1 navel orange
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced


  1. Heat oven to 450 degrees F. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the cauliflower with 2 tablespoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Roast until golden brown and tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining teaspoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the steaks with the chili powder, cayenne, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook to desired doneness, 4 to 6 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest.
  3. Using a zester, zest half the orange. Toss the cauliflower with the orange zest and scallions. Serve with the steak.

Waste Not, Want Not

  • Orange zest will freeze. Always zest your citrus if you can, place it in a Zip Lock bag and freeze to add to future recipes.
  • Cutting steaks isn't just applicable to this recipe. When buying meat, think outside of the packaging. You can buy cuts on sale near the expiration date and cut them into 4 oz portions for less fat and calories and less expense.
  • Squeeze the orange over the steaks while cooking or on the cauliflower while cooking for additional flavor.
  • You can freeze scallions, and the Woman's Day menu will accommodate use in the near future. 
I added baked sweet potatoes from a market that offers local produce. My baked potatoes are always rubbed with olive oil, salt and pepper, wrapped in foil, and baked for 50 minutes at 450 because I get the really big ones. For these potatoes, I made my own butter. I don't mean that I churned it, I mean that I melted it, added cinnamon and some of the orange zest, and bagged it to use later in an effort at culinary art (because I don't have a butter mold...but my birthday is coming in six months...). I really plan to bring back butter molds like Timberlake brought sexy back.

(bag butter/cut tip/butter icing)

Please forgive this. I had good intentions. If I could draw or paint it might have been something impressive but I think I deserve creativity points:


Top Sirloin -- $2.48 per person

The ingredients for wassail can get expensive. See if you can get cloves from someone else (it's not like we use them any other time besides the holidays, right?). If not, they are about $5 for a small bottle. If you have allspice and cinnamon, you can wing it. Cinnamon sticks can be bought cheap right after the holiday season if you make wassail for the new year.

Next time you're caroling for the holidays, show off by knowing the lyrics. Keep a flask of wassail in your breast pocket so you'll be extra cheery, even if you forget:

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 Year
And God send you a Happy New Year.

Our wassail cup is made
Of the rosemary tree,
And so is your beer
Of the best barley.


We are not daily beggars
That beg from door to door;
But we are neighbours' children,
Whom you have seen before.


Call up the butler of this house,
Put on his golden ring.
Let him bring us up a glass of beer,
And better we shall sing.


We have got a little purse
Of stretching leather skin;
We want a little of your money
To line it well within.


Bring us out a table
And spread it with a cloth;
Bring us out a mouldy cheese,
And some of your Christmas loaf.


God bless the master of this house
Likewise the mistress too,
And all the little children
That round the table go.


Good master and good mistress,
While you're sitting by the fire,
Pray think of us poor children
Who are wandering in the mire.

On a final note, this is what might happen if you drink too much wassail. Beware.

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