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 unto thee.
Today is winter solstice and even though it feels more like a balmy September day here in Austin, I’m planning on busting out as much wintery fare and fun as possible. Bonfires will be made, roasted meat will be gnawed at. And much cider will be drunk.
I did a little digging on the old Wikipedia, looking for some traditional solstice fare and happened upon Wassail, a spiced cider (usually alcoholic) drunk during Wassailing and Yule festivities.
What is Wassailing, you might ask? In medieval Europe it was either a way for peasants to approach their feudal lords for handouts without feeling like they were begging, or a celebration in the orchards for the apple trees (“drinking to the health of the trees” as Wikipedia puts it).
The lord of the manor would give food and drink to the peasants in exchange for their blessing and goodwill, i.e.
Love and joy come to you,via Wikipedia
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you
a Happy New Year
Luckily, not many of us have to go caroling for our supper anymore. We get to mess around in the kitchen with gadgets that peasants in the Middle Ages couldn’t have possibly imagined, our homes warm, our children well-fed and safe. Something to raise a glass of cheer to, I think.
One last thing before I (finally) get to the recipe… Since today is so close to Christmas I can’t help but include a little clip of one of my favorite celebrity chefs of all time doing some Christmas cooking 🙂
I hope you all enjoy your solstice and Christmas, no matter how you celebrate it (maybe with a hot mug of wassail?)
Winter Solstice Wassail (Instant Pot)
Psst! Want to try this but don’t have an Instant Pot? No problem! It converts nicely to a slow cooker, you’ll just have to cook it longer. I would suggest 6-8 hours on low to really let the flavors develop.
2 large red apples (about 24 oz)
2 large green apples (about 24 oz)
1 large orange (about 12 oz)
1 medium lemon (about 4 oz)
Spices–2 cinnamon sticks, 1 star anise, a few each of cardamom pods, allspice berries, and cloves
1/3 cup honey
6 cups (48 oz) water or a mix of water and alcohol (both red and white wine work well. If you want more complex flavors mix in some brandy or Grand Marnier as well)
*A note about using alcohol: it doesn’t burn off in the instant pot! So if you plan on serving this to the kiddos, do what I do–make it with water only and then once it’s finished, mix half a cup of cider with half a cup of wine plus a shot of Grand Marnier*
Slice all the fruit however you want. Throw the fruit and the spices along with the honey and water (and/or alcohol if you are using) into the instant pot. Close the lid, make sure the vent is in the sealing position, and do a manual pressure cook for 30 minutes.
Once it’s finished allow natural pressure release for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the lid, and using a wooden spoon or ladle, smash the fruit up a little bit then pour the whole thing through a strainer before serving.