But the folks in the Regency period also loved Christmas and they celebrated it with style, especially when it came to food and drink. One of the most treasured traditions of the time was the partaking of the Wassail Bowl, a beverage we would recognize today as mulled wine. There were many different recipes for Wassail, each family carefully passing down their particular version from one generation to the next.
Here’s a description from antiquarian Geoffrey Gent, describing one passing of the communal bowl:
“When the cloth was removed, the butler brought in a huge silver vessel of rare and curious workmanship, which he placed before the Squire. Its appearance was hailed with acclimation; being the Wassail Bowl, so renowned in Christmas festivity. The contents had been prepared by the Squire himself; alleging that it was too abstruse and complex for the comprehension of an ordinary servant. It was a potation, indeed, that might well make the heart of a toper leap within him; being composed of the richest and raciest of wines, highly spiced and sweetened, with roasted apples bobbing about the surface.”
Rich and racy—sounds good to me!
I may not have my own family recipe for Wassail, but I do have one of my mother’s old Christmas cookie recipes. When I was a kid these cookies were my favorite, and I still love them. Give them a try—I bet you’ll love them too!
Flora’s Russian Tea Balls
Preheat oven to 300F
1 cup softened butter
¼ cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon water
2 cups flour (sifted)
1 cup chopped pecans
Cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla. Stir in water. Add flour and blend thoroughly. Stir in nuts. Roll dough into 1 inch balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Cool before removing from sheet. Roll in frosting, then flaked coconut (optional).
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
½ cup milk
And what’s the Christmas Season without a little gift-giving? I’d like to give out another one of my books today: my first historical romance, Mastering The Marquess. Just tell me what your favorite Christmas recipe is. One person who comments will win a copy of the book!