Christmas · food · Paganism · Yule

Smoking Bishop

“A Merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavor to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon over a bowl of Smoking Bishop, Bob!” — Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

One of the Yuletide traditions that my family has enjoyed for many years is the making of the traditional bowl of Smoking Bishop. Smoking Bishop is a drink (a very alcoholic drink) from Victorian times that is served hot and mixes fruit, spices, and sugar for a heart-warming drink perfect for cold winters’ nights. It’s particularly good for families such as ours that celebrate both Yule and Christmas. Here’s how I make it.

Take five oranges and one grapefruit with the peel on, and bake in a 350 degree oven until the skin turns slightly brown. Let cool.

Stud each fruit with cloves, place in a pot and cover with two bottles of red wine and half a pound of sugar. If desired, add a stick of cinnamon and/or a few sprigs of star anise. Let sit, covered, for a day.

Remove the fruit, cut in halves, and squeeze into the wine. Strain and pour into a slow cooker. Add a bottle of ruby port. Best to do this several hours before you intend to serve the mixture.

Let the slow cooker go on low for four hours minimum (you should see slight wisps of steam). Then serve with dessert.

Since my family celebrates Yule as well as Christmas, this recipe serves double duty. I make it for Yule, then pour what’s left into a container and save in the fridge for four days or so until Christmas, when I pour it back into the crock-pot and reheat to serve again. I’ve never had to reheat it more than once.

It has a very “Victorian” flavor, almost medieval, because of the cloves. Glad Yule, Merry Christmas, and enjoy!

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