Easy, Traditional Recipes: Wassail and Gingerbread

Easy, Traditional Recipes: Wassail and Gingerbread

My family has a tradition of drinking wassail around Christmastime. I love the custom because it’s so easy to throw together a big pot of wassail, and it makes the house smell wonderful. My youngest affectionately refers to it as “weasel”, so if he tells you we’re drinking weasel over here, you’ll know what he’s talking about. (Don’t tell my kids, but it’s also kind of healthy compared to most holiday treats.)

During the Regency, the English enjoyed serving wassail on New Years Eve and Twelfth Night. Their recipe was a little different from mine, containing a mix of ale, apples, eggs, cream, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and sugar. They would carry a bowl of wassail into the room and ladle it out while singing the Wassail carol:

Here we come a-wassailing

Among the leaves so green,

Here we come a-wassailing

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.

 

 

Here’s my recipe:

WASSAIL

1 can frozen orange juice
1 can frozen apple juice
6 cans of water
2 sticks of cinnamon
5 cloves
1/4 cup of brown sugar (more or less to taste)

Mix all ingredients together in a big pot on the stove. I usually heat it at medium until it’s almost boiling. Then I turn the heat down to the lowest setting. The longer you leave it on the stove, the better it tastes, but you might have to add more water.

Optional: You can use twice as much apple juice if you prefer.

 

Another traditional treat that the English enjoyed was gingerbread. Vendors sold gingerbread cookies at fairs, and people in Yorkshire often ate gingerbread cakes at their Christmas feasts. Interestingly, the English have been eating gingerbread since Medieval times. We even have records of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I eating it.

My mother got our recipe for gingerbread cookies from Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. She makes it every year for Christmas, although she has altered the recipe to include honey. The traditional recipe contains 1 ½ cups of molasses and no honey. Children seem to prefer the milder taste this produces.

GINGERBREAD BOYS

Mix together the following in a large bowl:
1/3 cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar

Then add:
3/4 cup molasses
3/4 cup honey
2/3 cup water

Mix together in a medium-size bowl :
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
7 cups flour

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Heat oven to 350.  Roll dough 1/3 inch thick on floured surface.  Cut with floured cookie cutters.  Place on lightly greased cookie sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes.

What are your favorite holiday recipes?

12 Responses to Easy, Traditional Recipes: Wassail and Gingerbread

  1. I always wondered what wassel was even though I’ve known the carol for years. AND of course I love gingerbread as I just made some yesterday. Thanks.

  2. Thank you for sharing your recipes with us and your traditions. I do make many things for Christmas to entertain with and also to give away. I make snowball cookies, sugar cookies, nut rolls, lots of homemade fudge with and without nuts, peanut butter nutella swirled fudge, rum balls, homemade challah, date & nut bread, mostly to give away, kifli, gingersnaps to name a few. My heritage is Slovak of which I am 95% according to my DNA, so much of my cooking is that and my husband was Hungarian so I do his foods in his memory.

  3. My parents made candy every year. Mother required Dad to stir the candy for her because he had a stronger arm than she did. She would make dozens of varieties and divide it into smaller containers and they would then give it all away to their friends. She always made a big tray for me to take to work. Our workroom always smelled so delicious when I’d bring candy. After she passed everyone always remembered her candy. She had a generous spirit. Looks like I’m going to have to try some of those recipes.

  4. I remember we had homemade caramel popcorn, chex mix, divinity, and russian tea cakes at Christmas time when I was growing up, among other things. I don’t do much now, which is good for the waistline.

  5. Great recipes! I have never had Wassail but Gingerbread is one of my favorite tastes of the season! My favorite cookies are stain glass cookies made with chocolate and marshmallows an old family recipe! Celestial Seasonings Gingerbread Spice tea is also a favorite of mine! Yum!

  6. I went to a fundamentalist Southern Baptist school for a few years. In one of the Christmas pageants, we sang the Wassail Song, but because wassail has alcohol in it, we couldn’t say ‘wassail’! They changed it to ‘carol’. (rolling my eyes)

  7. Those both sound great! I’ll have to try them, although all previous attempts have shown me to be a failure at gingerbread 🙂 As to favorite… I like to make my own cranberry relish and jelly, and panna cotta 🙂

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