It’s that beautiful hiatus between Christmas and New Year’s: the stockings have been emptied, the goose has been eaten, Santa has come and gone . . . but the tree lights are still glowing, the Christmas puzzle is being worked on, the new books are being read, and it’s a wonderful time to sit and sip a glass of Glühwein while we count down the days and hours til the New Year arrives.
Wrap your hands around a steaming cup of Glühwein, or ‘glow wine’ (such a lovely name), and inhale the smell of the holidays. The warmth of the season seeps right through to your toes. It’s not time to take down the tree yet, or hide away all traces of the festivities. Instead, draw out the magic a little longer and revel in the pleasures of this wonderful time of the year. The stresses and excitement of preparing for Christmas are now behind us and it’s time to just relax and enjoy the moment. We wait all year for this.
In Germany the Christmas season lasts for all the 12 days of Christmas (like the song) spanning the stretch between Christmas Eve and Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, on January 6th. (None of this taking-the-tree-down-on-Boxing-Day stuff). During this time, visiting and celebrating happens daily, even if it is only to have a glass of Glühwein and a Christmas cookie with neighbours.
Glühwein is also traditionally sold from stalls at every Christmas market in every city or small town across Germany during the season of Advent. That is a lot of spiced mulled wine to be drank across the country . . . a lot of ‘glowing’.
This lightened-up Canadian version of Glühwein combines rich red wine with tangy cranberry juice and spices, to provide lots of flavour with a fruitiness that allows you to sip several glasses (and still have your wits about you). It’s based on the soul-warming drink my sister, Ingrid, served us when we gathered at her house on Boxing Day (the second day of Christmas/der zweiter Weihnachtstag).
Afterwards we gathered in the house to enjoy big juicy venison burgers from deer that she and her husband, Doug, had hunted earlier this Fall. It was an enchanting way to spend a Christmas Season Day with family.
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Kitchen Frau Notes: It’s best to use the cranberry juice cocktail you can buy in grocery stores for this Glühwein. If you use the unsweetened pure cranberry juice you can usually buy in health food stores, you will find it very tart, and will need to add considerable sweetener.
Star anise is used in a lot of German baking, in German lebkuchen spice mixes, and in my mom’s chicken soup, so it is a very familiar flavour to me. It adds a light licorice flavour to dishes. If you can’t find it, or don’t care for it, simply omit it and add a couple extra cloves instead. Make sure to remove the star anise pods from the cranberry juice after the 20 minutes of simmering, so it doesn’t get too strong in flavour.
Whenever I use the peel of citrus fruits, I try to get organic ones, since the peel is where most of the pesticides concentrate, and I don’t want those in my food!
Lightened-Up Cranberry Mulled Wine (Glühwein)
- 3 cups (750ml) cranberry juice cocktail
- 1 cup (250ml) water
- strips of zest from one orange (preferrably organic)
- 2 cinnamon sticks (3 to 4 inches/8-10 cm each)
- 4 to 5 cloves
- 1 to 2 star anise (optional)
- 1 bottle (750ml) full-bodied red wine
- 2 to 4 tablespoons honey, or more to taste (I like it tangy, with 2 tablespoons)
Pour the cranberry juice and water into a large sauce pan with a lid .
Use a vegetable peeler or paring knife to cut the outer layer of peel from one orange, trying to get as little of the white part as possible.
Add the orange zest strips, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and star anise to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the saucepan with a lid, and simmer for 20 minutes.
Strain out the spices and orange peel. You can return the cinnamon sticks to the juice if you wish, as their flavour keeps getting better as they steep.
Add the bottle of wine, and add honey to taste. Turn up the heat to medium. Heat the wine just until hot, but don’t let it come to a boil, as the alcohol will start to evaporate as soon as the wine reaches a temperature over 80°C/175°F.
Keep the wine warm over very low heat in the covered saucepan, or in a heatproof pitcher over a tealight candle flame, or place it in a slowcooker on low, or keep it in a thermos or insulated carafe.
Serve with an additional strip of orange peel or a cinnamon stick in each glass, if you wish.
(This would be a lovely libation to serve on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day!)
Serves 6 – 8.
And best wishes for a wonderful New Year to you all, filled with many blessings, much laughter, and great meals shared with family and friends!
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