The holidays are always a mixed bag of emotions. The weather turns cold, aches and pains emerge both physically and mentally and the challenge of juggling both money and time is greater. For those who have lost someone dear, depression can occur and these situations happen under normal circumstances without a world wide pandemic. This is the time to bring out the large sweaters, light a fire and comfort your hearts the best way you can.
There are many herbs and spices that have long been used to help cheer us up during cold hard times. Cinnamon, clove, orange peel, cardamom, vanilla, anise, nutmeg and honey all serve to warm our mind, body and soul. These are known as Mulling spices and I personally like to add these ingredients to wine but they are also delicious and special warmed in apple juice.
Mulling spices have been used since the 2nd Century to keep people warm during harsh winters. In Medieval Germany, the popular beverage "Wassail" was drank from bowls and was thought to bring fortune for the following year's apple harvest. This tradition was adopted by many countries as people would travel door to door singing and offering bowls of Wassail to neighbors and friends during the winter and holiday season. This tradition evolved into what we now know as caroling and the term wassailing faded away.
The recipe I use every year is as follows:
2 Fresh Oranges (juice 1 slice 1)
3 Cinnamon Sticks
5 Star Anise (Whole not powdered)
6 Cloves (Whole not powdered)
1/4 cup Honey
Nutmeg (powdered or to grate)
2 bottles of Red Wine or Apple Juice
If you have a slow cooker, combine all ingredients and heat on low for 1 hour then turn to warm. If using the stovetop, combine all ingredients until almost boiling then turn on simmer for 30 minutes. Once your spices are to your liking, you can bottle up your brew and refrigerate for later. It can be rewarmed or drank cold.
I know it's been a different and challenging year for all of us so make this last bit of the holiday season the best that you can! Start new traditions, warm your hearts and may you all be blessed with love and light.