When the weather turns cold, there’s nothing as comforting as a mug of Spiced Cider, otherwise known as Wassail. I’ve been serving this for years at Thanksgiving and during the Christmas/Winter holidays. It makes the house smell amazing! When my grandmother died at Christmas time, I made this as my “dish to pass” at the funeral home. The whole place smelled like apples and comfort. My grandmother would have loved that!
Here is my recipe:
- 1 crock-pot (I use a 3-quart size.)
- 1/2 gallon of apple cider or juice (I usually buy my apple juice in the 2-quart size bottles when they go on sale. For those of us who may be a little foggy on liquid measurements: a 1/2 gallon is the same as 2-quarts, is the same as 64 ounces, is the same as 8 cups.)
- 1 cup cranberry juice or cherry juice (Your choice/whatever is on sale.)
- 1/4 cup honey (If you’d prefer to go “all natural,” skip the sugar and use a 1/2 cup of honey or the sweetener of your choice.)
- 1/4 cup sugar (If you’re on a budget, skip the honey and use 1/2 of sugar or the sweetener of your choice.)
- An orange or two
- An apple or two
- A cinnamon stick or two
- Whole cloves
- Your choice of ground spices: Ginger, Allspice, Cinnamon, Cloves, Pumpkin spice, Apple Pie spice, Nutmeg. (This is to taste/whatever I happen to have on hand. I usually use a tablespoon or two of spices, altogether. The combination of spices adds up to a tablespoon or two, but the combination can vary. Even still, I always make sure there’s some ginger in my combo du jour.)
Pour your apple juice or cider in the crock-pot along with your cranberry or cherry juice. (You might be tempted to leave out the cranberry or cherry juice, but the Wassail doesn’t seem to have enough tartness to it if you leave it out. In a pinch, you could just buy premixed apple-cranberry juice or apple-cherry juice.) Add your sweeteners—honey and sugar, or the sweetener of choice.
Create your favorite mix of ground spices to taste. One to two tablespoons of spice, altogether, is good. This is not an exact science so don’t overthink it. Add your ground spices to the crock-pot.
Break your cinnamon stick(s) in halves or thirds and put them in the crock-pot. If you don’t have cinnamon sticks, use ground cinnamon to taste.
Rinse your apples and oranges. (If you’re concerned about pesticides, use organic fruit or a “fruit wash.”) I like to cut the apple(s) across so you can see the pretty star-pattern inside. Pick out the seeds and place the apples in the crock-pot. The apple slices will float! Use one or two apples, depending on size. This adds both visual appeal as well as flavor. Best case scenario, I use a green-skinned apple and a red-skinned apple because the colors look pretty.
Stud your orange(s) with the whole cloves. I like to do this so it makes a striped pattern on the orange(s). If you’ve never studded an orange, it’s really simple. Push the long pointy end of the whole clove into the orange. Easy! Cut the oranges across into slices so you can see the pretty segments. Place the orange slices in the crock-pot. They float! Put as many or as few studded orange slices as you like into the crock pot. If you don’t have whole cloves, use ground cloves to taste, but I’d still float the orange slices. Both the orange and the peel adds flavor to the Wassail. Orange peel contains pectin, which adds a slight thickness to the mixture, and they’re super healthy for you.
Set your crock-pot to low. Allow the Wassail to simmer for 2-4 hours before serving, stirring occasionally. This can sit on low all day. It gets better the longer it simmers.
I encourage guests to serve themselves. If they’d like to add a little brandy, butterscotch schnapps, or cinnamon schnapps to their own mug, they can do so to taste. I always keep the crock-pot of Wassail kid-friendly and alcohol-free.
The spiced fruit is REALLY tasty on its own. Most of the time, it gets left behind so at the end of the night, I put it in a dish, stick it in the fridge, and eat it as a special treat the next day.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do. It’s super-easy to make and a great crowd-pleaser on cold winter days.