1 gallon apple cider
1/2 teaspoon whole anise seed
1 inch piece fresh peeled ginger root
1 lemon, thinly sliced (unpeeled) into rounds
4-inch cinnamon stick
3 tablespoons brown sugar
4 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 whole nutmeg, cracked
1 orange, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
Put cider, apples, and ginger in a large pot and bring to a boil
Turn heat to low and add all spices (everything except the lemon and orange)
Simmer for 15 minutes
Add lemon and orange slices
Simmer for another 5 minutes
At this point, the wassail "base" is done. Now alcohol may be added.
There are different strategies for adding alcohol to wassail, the following is what worked for us:
We gathered all our leftover wine from the previous year: bottles we had opened but not finished.
What went into the wassail first, was a fine liquor from a local brewery that we tried and for which we never acquired a liking. Widbeys expensive rotgut (oops, I mean "liqueur") is 22% alchohol, and although difficult to chug unadulterated, was the PERFECT start for adding alcohol to the wassail.
At this point people started drinking the wassail, and it was fantastic. We kept the wassail heated and as the wassail diminished in volume and as alcohol burned off, we added our leftover wine.
By the end of the party, the wassail, continued to be delicious although the taste had evolved. The next morning, I distributed the dregs to my fruit trees, thanking them for last year's harvest.
Serve hot, ladle into mugs. Allow to cool before giving some back to the tree.