Lamb's Wool

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lamb's wool

[′lamz ‚wu̇l]
(vertebrate zoology)
The first fleece taken from a sheep up to 7 months old, having natural tapered fiber tip and spinning qualities superior to those of wool taken from previously shorn sheep.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Lamb's Wool


If you ever attend a traditional English Christmas feast you might find lamb's wool on the menu. This oddly named English Christmas beverage combines sugar, spice, wine or ale, and a number of other ingredients. Over the years English cooks have varied the recipe in many ways. Most recipes include roasted, chopped apples. The soft, whitish chunks of apple float to the top and give the surface the appearance of lamb's wool, hence the name of the drink. Some variations substitute crumbled toast for roasted apple chunks. Other recipes include cream, milk, or beaten eggs. These give the beverage a creamy, whitish appearance suggestive of lamb's wool. (See also Eggnog.)

Lamb's wool dates back to the Middle Ages. Since lamb's wool traditionally filled the wassail bowl at Christmas time, some people also refer to the beverage as "wassail." The English poet Robert Herrick (1591-1674) describes the preparation of the wassail bowl for a seventeenth-century Christmas party:

Crown the bowl full With gentle lamb's wool- Add nutmeg, sugar, and ginger, With store of ale too; And this ye must do To make the wassail a swinger [Crippen, 1990, 100].


The following recipes, used in England's royal kitchen in the early seventeenth century, offer somewhat more specific instructions for concocting the mixture:

Set ale on the fire to warm, boil a quart of cream with two or three whole cloves, add the beaten yolks of three or four eggs, stir all together, and pour into the ale: add sops or sippets of fine Manchet or French bread; put them in a basin, and pour on the warm mixture, with some sugar and thick cream on that; stick it well with blanched almonds, and cast on cinnamon, ginger, and sugar, or wafers and comfits [Crippen, 1990, 101].

Boil three pints of ale; beat six eggs, the whites and yolks together; set both to the fire in a pewter pot; add roasted apples, sugar, beaten nutmegs, cloves, and ginger; and, being well brewed, drink it while hot [Crippen, 1990, 101].

A contemporary recipe adapts the beverage for today's tastes by omitting the eggs and cream and adding wine:

In a large pot combine one bottle of sweet white wine with six and one half cups of brown ale. Add one teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Place over medium low heat. Peel and chop two roasted apples. When wine and spice mixture is warm, add the chopped apples and brown sugar to taste. Serve warm.

Further Reading

Cosman, Madeleine Pelner. Medieval Holidays and Feasts. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1981. Crippen, Thomas G. Christmas and Christmas Lore. 1923. Reprint. Detroit, Mich.: Omnigraphics, 1990.
Encyclopedia of Christmas and New Year's Celebrations, 2nd ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2003
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Lamb’s Wool


wool obtained from five- to seven-month-old lambs. Lamb’s wool from coarse-wooled and semicoarse-wooled breeds has better technical properties and a higher yield of scoured wool than the wool of the adult sheep.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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