It’s hard to believe the semester is almost over! I’m not sure where the time went. The last two months are almost a blur. I’m not going to say that time flies when you’re having fun, because that is not what happened, more like time flies when you live and die by deadlines and are constantly running out of time. That’s pretty much the theme of this semester.
But it’s almost over now. And then Wednesday comes the dreaded hip surgery. This weekend, then, I thought I should do something festive and celebratory, and what came to mind was my favorite holiday drink- mulled wine!
I first tried mulled wine when I was in Budapest for a winter interim class trip. We arrived a few days after Christmas, so the outdoor Christmas market was still up and running, and I remember seeing a large vat of steamy burgundy liquid and thinking that whatever it was, I wanted to try it.
Mulled wine is warmed red wine infused with spices with the delightful ability to warm you from the inside out. Last night, I went to a small Christmas get-together with friends and thought it was the perfect opportunity. Mulled wine just tastes like Christmas.
According to vivino.com, we can thank the Romans for coming up with the idea and sharing it with all the peoples they conquered throughout Europe. By the 17th century, we finally had the general term of glögg, and by the late 19th century it associated with the Christmas season. My people, the Germans, like to call it glühwein (glooo-vine), which I pretentiously call it sometimes, too. The great thing about mulled are the numerous variations found throughout Europe.
For my version, the recipe I like is from cooksillustrated.com:
3 cinnamon sticks (3 inches each)
10 whole cloves 10 whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon allspice berries (about 25)
2 bottles red wine, medium- or full-bodied
4 strips orange zest removed with vegetable peeler, each strip about 2 inches long by 1/2 inch wide, cleaned of any white pith
1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2-4 tablespoons brandy
My friend Ben had recently returned from a business trip to India and brought back a stash of spices that would be outrageously expensive in the US. It was an opportunity too good to pass up, meaning my version of mulled wine would deviate a little from the recipe from cookillustrated.com (but turn out just fine!) with fresh anise stars, cardamom seeds, cloves, cinnamon bark and some peppercorns stolen from the pepper grinder.
First, heat a large pot to medium and added all the spices. You want to toast them a bit before adding the wine, because it helps release the flavor. It takes about two minutes, or until they smell flagrant.
Meanwhile, zest a little bit of orange or use a vegetable peeler to peel a few good-sized strips of orange. You can even just throw in whole orange slices, that works too.
From there, I add the wine. I didn’t use two bottles of wine, but instead used a whole bag of Bota Box wine, the only boxed wined acceptable at my parent’s house. Since you’re adding sugar and spices, it would be a shame to waste good wine on this recipe. In general, the best wines to use are low-end medium bodied red wines, usually found on the lower shelves of the wine section. I promise, you won’t taste the difference.
After adding the wine, add the oranges and mix in the sugar until dissolved.
From there, make sure the heat is low, cover and let the wine come to a simmer. Keep watch, sometimes the heat is too high and the wine will begin to boil rapidly, which you don’t want. In that case, just turn down the heat, because remember, it’s all about a slow simmer to release the essence of those spices.
After about an hour, it’s time to strain out the spices and oranges. Using a fine mesh strainer or some double layered cheese-cloth, strain the wine into a separate bowl. Then discard the spices and oranges, and return the wine to the warm pot.
Now it’s time to add the brandy, or in my case, rum, since that’s all I had (and it worked perfectly).
To finish, do a little taste test. If the mulled wine could use a little more sweetness, add a couple tablespoons of sugar, which I did. Those spices were very strong!
And with a little added sugar to balance the taste, it was perfect! Make sure the heat is off, since you don’t want the spices to keep steeping. The wine tastes best if served immediately of course, and if you need a little more warmth, it reheats just fine in the microwave.
Et voilà! Cheers to the holidays!