You are going to wish for smell-o-vision after this post. Wassail is traditionally a hard, mulled cider that farmers drank to celebrate the apple harvest. I think now that wassail is associated with holiday time, and many people make it with some sort of alcohol to add to that feeling of celebration. This is a non-alcoholic version, and a recipe small enough to make on the stove everyday for yourself if you want. I made a large batch in my crockpot last week for a party, and it was so delicious, that I have started making myself a little bit every afternoon or evening. The aromas are heavenly!
Just a warning -- I like things spicy! I am a huge fan of spices and have a cupboard full of my favorites for making Eastern flavors. Sometimes I get them down just to sniff. I buy everything that is a little bit exotic from Cost Plus World Market, because they sell things at quite a discount, and they have everything I could never get at my local store. You could also order them online. On the plate, starting at 12 o'clock is star anise, which gives off a strong licorice aroma. Don't worry if you hate licorice, it won't make your food taste like that, but it just adds a richness and a depth of taste. Across the middle is a cinnamon stick (of course). I don't like to put powdered spices in my wassail, as they tend to clump and become too strong. At 4 o'clock is whole ginger. I keep it in the freezer, cut in 1 inch chunks, so that it will grate on my microplane. I had no idea why my raw ginger would never grate, and am so grateful to the person who finally let me in on that secret. Six o'clock is whole cloves -- most people have those. And at 10 o'clock is a whole nutmeg. I never thought I liked nutmeg until I tried fresh. It is AMAZING. You have to grate it also. I forgot to add cardamom pods to my clock/plate. These are optional to making an flavorfull wassail.
The mug above is nearly as big as my head and holds all of the wassail from the recipe. Feel free to adapt it to your own tastes, and if you want to make a large batch for a party, I suggest a crockpot, because it can keep it simmering all night. And if you want to knock the socks off your guests, add 1/2 of a vanilla bean (seeds removed and added to the liquid and then throw in the pod as well) for an amazing taste.
Spicy Wassail for Two
3 cups apple cider
Juice from one orange
Juice from 1/2 lemon
2 T. brown sugar
6 cardamom pods
6 whole cloves
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 heaping T. freshly grated ginger (this is your heat)
Put everything in a heavy-bottomed pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer let it go for at least 30 minutes. I like to let it steep for an additional 30 minutes. Pour through a small strainer into two mugs. If you are going to make a large batch, put all ingredients in a crockpot, set to low, at least two hours before you want to be able to drink it. Garnish with lemon and orange slices.