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Joni Woolf: It’s New Year’s Eve: celebrate

It has been a year to remember — or perhaps forget! But perspective reminds us that years come and go. So perhaps the sanest thing to do is keep our holidays, keep our feasts, and give thanks for friends and loved ones. In that vein, I went looking for a wassail recipe, a nice warm, spicy drink with which to celebrate the New Year.
Every year at Calvary Episcopal Church’s Boar’s Head Festival, Ross and Charlotte Chambliss serve a delicious wassail — some with rum and some without (the one with rum always disappears first). It is delicious. And if you’re going to be serving a crowd, this will work well. Just note this is for a large crowd, and adjust accordingly.

Calvary’s Traditional Boar’s Head Wassail (as found in its cookbook, “Food and Faith)
2 gal. apple cider
3 gal. cranberry juice
24 oz. frozen lemonade
3 tablespoons ground nutmeg
4 sticks whole cinnamon
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 to 3 tablespoons allspice
3 pieces fresh ginger, sliced
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon cardamom seeds
1 fifth of rum
Pour cider, cranberry juice and frozen lemonade in a HUGE pot. Add everything except the rum and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain spices and discard. Now you have enough wassail for two punch bowls — one with rum and one without. Equally divide, and in one punch bowl filled with the wassail mix, add 1 fifth of rum. This is served cool, or at room temperature.
The wassail that I will be making is from a recipe given me by my friend Lynn Cass, many years ago. It is served warm, in cups or glasses, sometimes with a cinnamon stick to stir. It is called:

Grace Church Christmas Wassail (from Grace Church, Charleston, S.C.)
2 quarts water
2 cups sugar
1/3 tablespoon whole coves
5 cinnamon sticks
2/3 large can frozen lemonade
1 1/3 can frozen orange juice
1 gallon apple cider
1/3 to 2/3 fifth of rum (depending on preference)
Put spices in a bag and tie to the edge of the kettle (or cooking pot). Bring slowly to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Cover and let stand for one hour. Add lemonade, orange juice, cider, and rum. Heat, but do not let mixture boil. Serves about 35. In recent years, crockpots have made it easier to maintain the right temperature. So, after the mixture has cooked and cooled for one hour, place in a large crockpot, add the juices and rum and keep on low throughout the evening. It is a pleasant, celebratory drink that has welcomed in many a new year. In fact, that’s what the song is all about!

“Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green
Here we come a-wand’ring
So fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you
And to you your wassail, too,
And God bless you and send you
A Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year.”
If we were in England, we would sing all six stanzas, and perhaps leave the pub with a stein in hand and wander out onto the street, still singing. But this is Americus, in Georgia, in the United States, and one stanza may be enough to encourage the holiday spirit. One cup of wassail will do that also. So be careful, be safe, and Happy New Year to all.
Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net.