Wassail

Wassail | December 23, 2013 | By

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Everyone shortens my name to Ing.  Never fails.  If they know me for longer than two weeks, Ingrid becomes Ing…or Ingie or Ingy or, in my mother’s case…Engelbert Humperdinck.  Imagine how horrified I was when at my sixteenth birthday party she called me that in front of practically everyone I knew.  There was no end to the name play after that.  It was Ingle this and Ingle that.  I’ve learned to just go just with it.  Hike Ing, Cook Ing, Fish Ing.  So today I’m Wassail Ing.  Of course, since I’m also Christmas decorating and wrapping presents, you could say I’m “Jingle Ing all the way”.

Anyhoo…here’s my recipe for wassail.  I really wanted to make a traditional version, but since I will be lucky to get my Christmas baking done with the measly amount of eggs my chickens are giving me right now, I had to leave the egg whites out of my Christmas punch.  No skin off my back.  I don’t find the idea appetizing in the least.

I used Alton Brown’s method of baking cored apples with brown sugar spooned into the center of each, but rather than stirring the whole apples in at the end, I put them through my chinois to press them into the punch.  I also simmered the alcohol out of it so that my kids could sip it with us on Christmas Eve.  For the adult version, the wine and stout can be quickly heated before the other ingredients are added.  I sampled it before simmering the alcohol away and it was heavenly, all warm and spicy.

Ingrid Ients (Ha! Couldn’t resist.):

5 apples

1/4 c. brown sugar

1 (11.2 oz) bottle of Guinness

1 c. mulled wine (Glühwein) or sweet wine such as sherry or port

The entire peel of an orange

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/4 tsp. ground allspice

1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

5 c. orange juice

An orange for garnish. I used a blood orange for its ruby color.  Beautiful!

Method:

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Core the apples.

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Place them in a baking dish.

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Sprinkle the brown sugar into the center of each.

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Bake for 45 minutes.

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Pour the remaining ingredients, with the exception of the orange juice and orange garnish slices, into a medium saucepan.  Simmer for 30 minutes to cook out the alcohol if making the nice version, just heat slowly to allow the flavors of the beer, wine, and spices to meld for naughty wassail.

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Press the apples into the simmered liquid.

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Add the liquid from the baked apple pan.

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Pour in the orange juice and stir to combine.

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Heat to warm it for sipping.  Pour into a heat proof serving dish.  I am using a soup tureen that has a cord to keep liquids warm tomorrow night for our Christmas Eve dinner.  Toss in the orange slices for garnish.

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Yield: 10-12 servings

Note:  The final beverage, for those who don’t care for pulp, can be strained through cheesecloth.  2 – 3 cups  of apple cider can be substituted for the baked apples.   

 

Snow Day Hot Chocolate

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We haven’t had enough snow at our house this cool season to play in yet.

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One day it just snowed and snowed.  It was beautiful, but it seemed to stick everywhere but at our house.  I guess that’s the trade-off for having snow stay on the ground longer here than it does on other properties in our cove.  The treeline on the ridge behind our house shades our acreage just enough so that my boys can get a couple of extra sledding days in when we have a really heavy snow.

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Snow days mean hot chocolate to warm with when we all come in to take off our soggy outerwear and get cozied up.

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I usually keep packages of instant cocoa in the pantry for days when it snows so hard that the power goes out.  It’s easier to use a portable heating source to warm a few cups of water than it is to cook hot chocolate made with milk over one.  It’s also easier for me to snag one of the foil packets to add to my coffee when I have it on hand, so I decided after this was happening a little too often at that beginning of the cool season, that I’d better just quit buying it.

One snow day I was out of milk so had to come up with a hot chocolate alternative.  They couldn’t sip it, but my boys liked it so much that I’ve made Chocolate Malt Risotto on several occasions since.  It’s basically a chocolate rice pudding, and yummy warm or cold.

When there was snow forecast recently but nothing came of it, I decided to surprise my kids with hot chocolate to help with the disappointment of missing a sledding opportunity.

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I wish my boys were still this little. But at least now that they are adult size, I worry less about them whipping out of control sliding down that hill behind the old corn crib and breaking something. (e.g. noses, arms, legs, gutter pipes, spirits of adventure…)

Ingredients:

4 c. whole milk

6 T dark cocoa

8 T turbinado sugar

1/4 tsp. pink Himalayan salt

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Marshmallows, whipped cream, candy canes, etc. for garnish.

Method:

Add milk to a medium sized stock pot.

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Whisk in all the remaining ingredients but the vanilla.

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Heat over medium/high while constantly stirring to keep the milk from scorching and the cocoa from sinking and burning.

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Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking and stirring for a few minutes so the cocoa can be absorbed by the milk as it heats.

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Stir in the vanilla extract.

Cool to a sipping temperature so your little ones don’t singe their tongues.

Garnish and serve.

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Yield: 4 large mugs

Hazelnut Mocha Coffee

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This drink really isn’t worthy of a blog post, but it’s my new Nutella substitute.  If there is Nutella in the house, I’m going to want to find all kinds of neat things to spread it on, but usually end up snitching a spoonful here and there to eat straight from the container.  I like it so much that I simply avoid buying it to bypass temptation.  But when we had our Creepfest Halloween party the weekend before last, I bought it to use as piped lettering on our graveyard cake headstones, rather than ready-made chocolate frosting that is full of hydrogenated oils.  It probably didn’t make a difference since we had black cat cookies made from Oreos and M&Ms, but I was trying.  Trying to keep the junk to a minimum while still allowing my family to have fun.

The great thing about this last Halloween was that my boys decided on their own that they were too old for costumes and trick-or-treating.  Secretly it broke my heart just a little bit.  I will really miss those precious times with them and it’s just another HUGE sign that they won’t be here with me forever, that they are really growing up.

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But, man, oh man, was I happy that we didn’t have oodles of candy in the house from going door-to-door.  I have no idea what we will use to decorate our gingerbread house this Christmas, since leftover Halloween treats usually comprise the majority of the goodies we glue on with royal icing, but we’ll figure it out.

Avoiding that jar of Nutella, which I was disappointed to see is now in a plastic, most likely carcinogenic container, rather than glass, has been difficult.  I spread some on a beautiful whole wheat bagel the other day.  I think that’s probably a crime in some states, but I’ve thus far been able to avoid the spoon dipping.

Tonight, when I was putting away an organic box of quinoa (go figure) and saw the Nutella in the pantry, I decided to do something about my ongoing craving.

I didn’t come up with the healthiest solution, and haven’t done the math to see if it was just as bad as spoon-fulls of my favorite nut spread, but this is what I did.

I brewed a big mug of decaf. hazelnut coffee and put a package of cocoa with mini marshmallows and some raw cream from my neighbor’s cow in it.  Like I said, I don’t know how much better for me it was, but it hit the spot!  Mmmm!  So nice on a cozy fall evening after a chilly hike on our ridge-top trail.  The hike was hours ago, but I wasn’t able to warm up until I sipped that entire cup of steaming brew.

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And…my fitness partner follows this blog so I think I’m going to hear about this one tomorrow after I fess up in my evening email.  At least I’d better hear about it.  It’s her “job”.  😉  But I guess it’s my job to behave.  I am supposed to be avoiding sugar.  It’s my rule, but that doesn’t mean I can break it.  But, oh, what a yummy, naughty cup of coffee!