Vision 2020 wasn’t supposed to be like this, and as I, like many others, prepare to show this awful, awful year the door — we can’t help dreading/anticipating what 2021 has in store for us. So I felt I needed some kind of ceremonial drink to pre-emptively see the year off.
I’ve also gone down a medieval research rabbithole because of a paper I presented in a Middle Eastern university’s webinar series last week, and this has me reading all sorts of things about the Silk Road and spices, and the ways in which food becomes intertwined with the discourse of “knowledge transfer” but also cultural domination and commodification.
But I’m also a foodie, so all of this reading makes me want to re-create things. Like a wassail! If you want to send off the year, no better way than a wassail at the Solstice (nevermind that in the Celtic Calendar the year kind of begins at Samhuinn)! Wassails turn up every now and then in the medieval music I’ve been obsessed with since my twenties, and in various books and oddities I read. So. I wanted to make my own version (as usual) which is non-alcoholic, mildly spiced, and friendly to diabetics. I don’t think medieval people (or medievalists) would approve!
ps: there are various versions of non-alcoholic wassails on Google, if you’d like a variety. I’m intrigued by a few, especially the Ginger wassail!
Ingredients (for 1 surly academic, increase depending on # of persons).
- 1/2 a mug of apple juice
- 1/2 a mug of cranberry juice.
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 1 small star anise
- a tiny bit of dried (or fresh) thyme
- a tiny touch of sea salt
- 1 slice of orange (a thin disc not a wedge)
- sweetener of choice (if not diabetic or if wanting to use your daily sugar allowance maybe demerara or any form of brown sugar, I used lakanto — a super low-carb sweetener derived from wintermelon)
Pour the juices into a milk pan. I have a stoneware one that I use for all my beverages and desserts, preferring it to a kettle. Add the spices and the orange wedge. Gently simmer till it reaches boiling point. Add the other ingredients. Stir gently. Pour into a mug. If the thyme bothers you omit it, but I’ve been using it as a dessert herb for years, having one day possessing the notion that adding it to the strawberry preserves* I was making would heighten the flavour. I’ve since used it in my pear, walnut and yogurt cakes, apple pie and various other fruit-based desserts. Try it! The sea-salt, you need very little, it’s another thing I’ve picked up over the years. A tiny bit of it does augment the natural sweetness of fruit juices.
And ta-da! You have a healthy wassail with which to enjoy these last few days of a difficult year. I found it very comforting and thought I’d share the goodness.
*another favourite thing of mine to do when making preserves or any kind of fruit reduction is to add the tiniest splash of balsamic vinegar. But I didn’t do that for this particular wassail. 😉