Monday, December 12, 2011

Brandied, Spiced Christmas Wassail

How I would have loved to be in Woodstock, Vermont, this weekend for the town’s annual Wassail Weekend festival! The Vienna Boys’ Choir performed in what is regaled as a New England traditional holiday feast in the era of Charles Dickens. Naturally, the town even hosted a performance of Dickens’ magical story, A Christmas Carol

Each year, I just have to watch Alastair Sim, who so brilliantly portrayed Ebeneezer Scrooge in the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol - in my opinion, the best-of-all holiday films. It’s getting harder to find that great old movie on TV these days. Younger film buffs may be forgiven if they think of George C. Scott’s 1984 made-for-TV adaptation, which was also very good. Whether you’re in chilly Vermont or hunkered down in front of the television set tut-tutting over Scrooge’s miserly ways, what a wonderful time of year this is to hoist a glass, Dollinks!   

Brandied, Spiced Christmas Wassail:

6 small apples, cored
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 c. brandy
4 - 3-in. cinnamon sticks, broken
1 tsp. whole cloves
1 tsp. whole allspice, slightly crushed
2 - 26 oz. (750 mL) bottles dry red wine
1 - 26 oz. (750 mL) bottle dry sherry
Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur, to taste
Peel a strip around top of each apple and place in casserole. Combine sugar and brandy in saucepan. Bring just to a boil and pour over apples. Cover and bake at 350 deg. F. 35-to-40 min., or until apples are tender. Drain apples and set aside, reserving syrup.
In a large saucepan, combine 1-½ c. reserved syrup and 1 c. water. Bundle cinnamon, cloves, and allspice in a 6-inch square of cheesecloth tied with string. Add to syrup in saucepan. Bring syrup to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 10 min. Discard spice bag. Stir in red wine, sherry, and a little Grand Marnier or orange brandy to taste. Pour into large crock pot set to “simmer” or “warm.” Float baked apples on top.  Makes 25-to-30 servings, using four-ounce punch glasses. 
- With thanks to The Vancouver Sun

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