With Open Arms

December 24, 2008

M E R R Y     C H R I S T M A S

from the G to the Izz-ELLE

upside-down-christmas-tree

For as long as I can remember my mom would make glogg over the holidays. It always seemed a little odd to me, because my mother was basically a teetotaler (or so I had thought; she had a secret pentiant for brandy and other sweet liquors which appeared later on her life by way of diferent silver flasks; flasks she argued were simply decorative.) At any rate, christmas was an exception and she made this mulled wine, a recipe she argued had been passed down through the women in family — all Scandahoovian — and I liked it because it made the kitchen smell warm and rich and sweet.

In retrospect, her recipe, while fantastic, was kind of like a clean-out-the-liquor cabinet project. In retrospect, I realize it must not have mattered that, during my adolescent years, a number of those bottles were 25%-50% water. I suppose because the water boiled off anyway. At any rate. Try it. It’s great.

posted by Caroline Picard; you can read about the history of glögg and get alternative recipes if you go to to this site here.

Recipe for glögg

The aroma of mulling glögg is heavenly, and when it is served steaming hot in a mug after a hard day of skiing or shoveling the sidewalk, the body offers thanks. Glögg also makes a good marinade for beef or venison. Here is my tried and true recipe.

Yield. Makes about five 750 ml bottles
Preparation time. About 90 minutes

Ingredients
1.5 liter bottle inexpensive dry red wine
1.5 liter bottle inexpensive American port
750 ml bottle inexpensive brandy
10 inches cinnamon stick
15 cardamom seed pods or 1 teaspoon whole cardamom seeds
2 dozen whole cloves
1 orange peel, whole and washed
1/2 cup dark raisins
1 cup blanched almonds
2 cups sugar
Garnish with the peel of another orange

Notes about the ingredients
The wine, port, and brandy. There is no need to invest in expensive wine, port, or brandy because the spices are going to pre-empt any innate complexity of a fine wine, but don’t use anything cheap. Remember, the sum will be no better than the parts. If you want to play, instead of brandy try using Swedish aquavit, a caraway flavored vodka popular in Scandinavia. I’ve had good luck with Southern Comfort, which has a slightly peachy flavor.

Raisins. Golden raisins will work, but dark raisins are better.

Cardamom. Cardamom comes in three forms: Pods, seeds, and powder. The pods look like orange seeds. Cardamom seed pods may be hard to find, so you may need to order them from a spice specialist like Penzeys.com, but don’t leave out the cardamon. Cardamom is the secret ingredient. The seeds within the pods are either black or tan, about 1/3 the size of peppercorns. If you can’t find pods and can only find seeds, use about 1 teaspoon of them. Do not use powder.

Almonds. It is important to get naked cream colored almonds that have had the shells and brown skins removed. The skins are bitter and full of brown coloring that can give the glögg a dusty texture. Do not use salted or smoked almonds. If you can only find almonds with skins, you can remove them by blanching them. Here’s how: Boil a pot of water, dump in the almonds, wait for the water to boil again, let them boil for about a minute, pour off the water, and rinse with cold water, and drain. The skins will slip right off if you pinch them.

Cloves. Do not use powdered cloves.

Do this
1) Crack the cardamom seed pods open by placing a pod on the counter and laying a butter knife on top of it. With the palm of your hand, press on the knife. They will crack it open so the flavors of the seeds can escape. You can leave the seeds in the pods once they are cracked.

2) Pour the red wine and port into a stainless steel or porcelain kettle. Do not use an aluminum or copper pot since these metals interact with the wine and brandy to impart a metallic taste. Add the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, orange peel, raisins, and almonds. Cover and simmer.

3) Put the sugar in a pan and soak it with half the brandy. Warm over a medium-low flame and stir occasionally until it becomes a clear, golden syrup and all the sugar is dissolved. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes until the little tiny bubbles become large burbles. This starts caramelizing the sugar and adds a layer of flavor.

4) Add the sugar syrup to the spiced wine mix. Cover and let it simmer over a low heat for an hour.

5) Taste. If you wish, add more sugar or brandy to suit your taste. If you do, go easy, 1/4 cup at the most. Like my barber says, “I can always cut more off but I can’t put it back on”. You can always add more brandy, but if you go over the top, you can’t get back under.

6) Just before serving, strain to remove the spices, almonds, and raisins. You can serve your glögg immediately or bottle it and age it. A month or two of aging really enhances the flavors and marries them beautifully. A year is even better. If you are going to age glögg, use wine or whiskey bottles and make sure they are clean. Bottle glögg while it is still warm. Fill the bottles as high as possible and seal them tight. You don’t have to lie them down to age, and if you use used corks, they might leak where the corkscrew entered if you lie them down.

7) Fringe benefits. Do not discard the raisins and almonds when you are done, they are impregnated with flavor! I put the raisins in a jar in the refrigerator, and my wife bakes them into panettone, an Italian raisin bread After I snack down a few handsful). I roast the almonds in a 225F oven for about 90 minutes and munch them as snacks with a football game.

8) Serving. To serve glögg, warm it gently in a saucepan over a low flame or, better still, in a crockpot. Serve it in a mug and, don’t skip this, garnish it with a strip of fresh orange peel, twisted over the mug to release the oils. Drink while seated and give your car keys to a friend.

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