I confess, when my fellow Blog Sisters broached the idea of doing holiday food themed posts here at Teatime, I was a bit hesitant like Erica. Not because I didn’t think it was a great idea, because it is. But because my culinary skills are meager and mediocre at best. I have a penchant for leaving the burner on high so my food will cook faster, and I have no knife skills to speak of. Whenever I try to cut anything, I always end up with different sized and shaped pieces. I envy people like my dad who seem to have an instinctive knack for knowing how things come together in the kitchen, and how much seasoning a dish needs. He is such a great cook, and I wish his skills had passed down to me! However, the ironic thing is that I am a huge Food Network addict and love watching cooking shows. Figure that one out! lol Nevertheless, I wanted to do my part, my non-existent culinary talents notwithstanding.
I came up with the idea to talk about holiday foods and drinks in general. There are certain foods and drinks that I associate with certain holidays and times of the year. For example, I think apple cider, pumpkin, and squash for autumn, and gingerbread, sugar cookies, eggnog, candy canes, wassail, and hot buttered rum come to mind when I think about winter. So how did these traditions come to be? Allow me to share some information with you about Wassail and egg nog. But before we proceed any further, I must give a big huge shout-out to Blog Sister Jennelle who so generously shared some research with me for this blog post.
When we think of wassail, many of us think of the Wassail Song. Personally, I think the Wassail Song is really lovely, but I much prefer Somerset Wassail, especially the version I sang with my high school choir:
But Wassail is a tradition that goes back centuries in England. Wassail not only refers to the drink, but the ceremony of drinking and celebrating in the hopes of ensuring a good harvest for cider. Historically, wassail was cider drink enhanced with many spices such as cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Modern day versions include ale, wine, brandy, and other types of alcohol. For example, here is a tasty recipe from Alton Brown of Good Eats: (I got this recipe from the Food Network website.)
- 6 small Fuji apples, cored
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup water
- 72 ounces ale
- 750 ml Madeira
- 10 whole cloves
- 10 whole allspice berries
- 1 cinnamon stick, 2-inches long
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 6 large eggs, separated
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Put the apples into an 8 by 8-inch glass baking dish. Spoon the brown sugar into the center of each apple, dividing the sugar evenly among them. Pour the water into the bottom of the dish and bake until tender, about 45 minutes.
Pour the ale and Madeira into a large slow cooker. Put the cloves, allspice, and cinnamon into a small muslin bag or cheesecloth, tied with kitchen twine, and add to the slow cooker along with the ginger and nutmeg. Set the slow cooker to medium heat and bring the mixture to at least 120 degrees F. Do not boil.
Add the egg whites to a medium bowl and using a hand mixer, beat until stiff peaks form. Put the egg yolks into a separate bowl and beat until lightened in color and frothy, approximately 2 minutes. Add the egg whites to the yolks and using the hand mixer, beat, just until combined. Slowly add 4 to 6 ounces of the alcohol mixture from the slow cooker to the egg mixture, beating with the hand mixer on low speed. Return this mixture to the slow cooker and whisk to combine.
Add the apples and the liquid from the baking dish to the wassail and stir to combine. Ladle into cups and serve.
Eggnog is another typical holiday drink made from milk, cream, sugar, whipped eggs, and laced with a strong liquor such as brandy, rum, whiskey, bourbon, or vodka, and garnished with cinnamon or nutmeg. The history of Egg Nog is a bit more complicated. Some say it originated in East Anglia, England, and some say it was derived from a posset, a medieval European drink made with hot milk. It is thought that the nog part of the eggnog comes from noggin, a Middle English term for a type of mug used to serve alcohol. But either way, it’s delicious! Here is another recipe from Alton Brown: (His show Good Eats is one of my favorites!)
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
- 1 pint whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3 ounces bourbon
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 4 egg whites*
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until they lighten in color. Gradually add the 1/3 cup sugar and continue to beat until it is completely dissolved. Add the milk, cream, bourbon and nutmeg and stir to combine.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat to soft peaks. With the mixer still running gradually add the 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
Whisk the egg whites into the mixture. Chill and serve.
Cook’s Note: For cooked eggnog, follow procedure below.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until they lighten in color. Gradually add the 1/3 cup sugar and continue to beat until it is completely dissolved. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, over high heat, combine the milk, heavy cream and nutmeg and bring just to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and gradually temper the hot mixture into the egg and sugar mixture. Then return everything to the pot and cook until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F. Remove from the heat, stir in the bourbon, pour into a medium mixing bowl, and set in the refrigerator to chill.
In a medium mixing bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. With the mixer running gradually add the 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Whisk the egg whites into the chilled mixture.
* Raw Egg Warning
Food Network Kitchens suggest caution in consuming raw and lightly cooked eggs due to the slight risk of salmonella or other food-borne illness. To reduce this risk, we recommend you use only fresh, properly refrigerated, clean grade A or AA eggs with intact shells, and avoid contact between the yolks or whites and the shell. For recipes that call for eggs that are raw or undercooked when the dish is served, use shell eggs that have been treated to destroy salmonella, by pasteurization or another approved method.
And just in case I haven’t enough to help you get your booze on, here is Sunny Anderson’s recipe for Hot Spiced Buttered Rum! (Another FN recipe)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 3 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
- 4 ounces dark rum
- 4 long cinnamon sticks
In a small bowl mix the butter with the sugar, vanilla, and pumpkin pie spice, until thoroughly combined.
Warm the pineapple juice in a medium saucepan until very hot, but not boiling. Remove from the heat and whisk in spiced butter until combined. Divide the rum among 4 mugs. Pour the pineapple juice into the mugs. Drop a cinnamon stick into each mug to use as a swizzle stick. Serve.
In the interest of full disclosure, and lest you all start to think I’m a big lush, I actually don’t drink all that often. But it’s fascinating to me how integral food and drink is to our history, and how intertwined it is with our memories and holiday traditions.
So, let’s talk! Any of you have favorite holiday drink recipes to share? Do you have any other food or drinks that you associate with certain times of the year? Any of you as obsessed with Food Network as I am? lol. One lucky commentor will win a copy of Lisa Kleypas’s Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor!