Food: Holiday drinks have interesting histories
One of my favorite sights during the holiday season, is seeing containers of Mrs. Bowen’s Tom and Jerry eggnog mix in local markets. Even distant acquaintances of mine know what a fan I am of the warm and comforting Tom and Jerry drink which I so associate with this time of year.
Perhaps the reason why I have such a fondness for these creamy nogs is the memory of my Grandpa making these every Christmas for visitors. He served them in little Santa cups which I found enchanting. He would always make me a “special” Tom and Jerry, (no booze) and that warm, eggy mix with a dash of nutmeg on top, was a treat I always looked forward to.
But Tom and Jerry’s are not the only cocktail associated with Christmas. Seems there are a lot of beverages connected to this holiday. Take for instance wassail. Up until a few days ago I had no idea what this concoction was but after hearing my first Christmas carol on the radio the other day, I decided to do a little research. For years I’ve sung along to “Here We Come a Wassailing” without ever really knowing what the heck wassailing was. Come to find out, going wassailing is usually the result of actually drinking wassail.
My research revealed that in olden times, particularly in the southwest of England, wassail was a hot, mulled punch made with apple cider, mulled beer or mead and spices such cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Strangely it was topped with slices of toast.
Once enough wassail was consumed, the wassailing would begin which is a processional to an apple orchard where the toast slices were placed in the crooks of apples trees to attract friendly spirits, and to chase away the evil ones. The purpose of this ritual was to ensure a good harvest of fruit the following Autumn and many boisterous wassail toasts were lifted to the branches by the wassailers as they strolled among the orchard. And apparently this is where Christmas caroling door to door got its beginnings too.
In addition, the Tom and Jerry also originated in England in the early 1800s and is named after characters in a play authored by journalist Pierce Egan called “Tom and Jerry or Life in London.” To publicize his book and the play, Egan promoted a variation of eggnog by adding brandy and calling it a Tom and Jerry. The additional fortification helped popularize the drink and as I can attest, even to this day, it is a favorite.
Another cocktail I love during the holiday season is Hot Buttered Rum. This also originated in England in the 1700s. When Rum was introduced to this country from Jamaica, it was added to a buttery mixture during the coldest times of the year. Today, it retains its ability to warm the bitterest of days, if not outside, at least in.
This week I’ve included a Wassail and Hot Buttered Rum recipe. Both produce big batches and are perfect for parties and gatherings. The Tom and Jerry recipe is on the back of the container of the Mrs. Bowen’s mix and take it from me it’s a winner.
After doing all this research I’ve decided I might try a little wassailing myself this holiday season. If anyone knows of any apple orchards with evil spirits, give me a call.
1 (12 oz.) can frozen lemonade concentrate
1 (12 oz.) can frozen orange juice
2 (12 oz.) cans water
1 1/2 c. sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp. ginger, crystallized or whole
1 gal. apple cider
1/2 gal. or 2 bottles white wine
1 qt. sherry
Orange, pierced with cloves
Boil first 7 ingredients 15 minutes. Add white wine and sherry. Add clove pierced orange which has been baked at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Reduce heat to simmer. Makes 2 1/2 gallons. Leftovers can be refrigerated and stored up to one week.
Crock Pot Hot Buttered Rum
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 pinch salt
3 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 cups rum
2 quarts hot water
heavy cream, whipped
additional ground nutmeg, for topping
Combine brown sugar, butter, salt, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and nutmeg in the crock pot. Add hot water. Stir well. Cover pot and cook on low for 5 hours. Add rum; stirring to blend. Serve from crock pot in warm mugs with a scoop of whipped cream and a dusting of nutmeg.