This hot, spiced wine is a winter warmer; wrap your hands around a toasty mug of Glühwein to warm not only your fingers, but your whole insides. The spicy flavors from the Christmas markets in Bavaria are yours to enjoy whenever you feel the chill of winter in the air. (Skip to recipe.)
We've just been home a week from our beautiful Christmas in Bavaria with our kids (3 out of the 4), and it all feels like a dream, until I cradle my hands around a hot mug of Glühwein and take a warming sip. Then it all comes back to me in a delicious, spicy rush.
Our trip started a week later than originally planned, due to the sudden, tragic loss of Raymond's older sister. This left us feeling heartsick and disoriented, and we arrived weary and jet-lagged on the afternoon of December 23, after re-booking last-minute flights with less-than-desirable connections. We lugged our baggage on the train from the airport to the home we'd booked in the little town of Gröbenzell, outside of Munich, where our children were waiting for us (they'd gone several weeks ahead). We had little time to get organized, and they whisked us off on the train to visit the Christkindlmarkt in Munich. It was dark, raining, and cold, but the spark of Christmas began to grow in our hearts, especially with that first taste of German Christmas Market food and that first warming sip of Glühwein with our loved ones.
And everywhere, there were Glühwein stands, doling out steaming mugs of spiced wine, red or white, with an optional Shuss (shot of rum or brandy). Cradling our chilled fingers around a warm mug, and sipping that hot elixir, warmed us through and through.
We'd missed the chance to visit a lot of Christmas markets as originally planned, so the next morning Raymond and I hopped on the train and went back to Munich's Christkindlmarkt to browse around until it closed at 2:00 that afternoon. More Glühwein was in order of course! Each stall uses their own mugs, which you can keep, or return for a deposit.
Munich's Christmas Market is a whole series of stalls selling all kinds of Christmas wares and treats. They're set up in 'Marienplatz', the main square in front of the stunning city hall, and all down the streets fanning out in every direction.
We saw stalls selling everything from the traditional Lebkuchen hearts, spice mixes, chocolates, pottery, blown glass ornaments, and ceramics to the ages-old hand carved wooden Christmas pyramids.
After Christmas was over, we discovered the Winterzauber celebrations at the Viktuelienmarkt, the regular weekly street market just outside of Marienplatz in Munich. Of course, the Glühweining continued there! I amassed quite a collection of Glühwein mugs, which I carefully wrapped in clothes and lugged home in my carry-on bag. I had to bring home a little bit of German Christmas to enjoy at home in years to come.
I purchased a couple bags of dried Münchner Glühweingewürz, the traditional mulling spices used in making Glühwein (though I'm sure the vendors each have their own secret combinations of spices). I've made a fresh version here, using fresh citrus peel and the ingredients listed on my little Christmas market bag of spices, that tastes just like the German ones we sipped on, so now you can enjoy it at home, too.
It doesn't need to be Christmas to enjoy Glühwein - any chilly day will do. We've already made it several times in the week since we've been home, and with the deep freeze and snow days we're having here in Alberta - I can see more of it in my future! (Besides, I've got those cute little mugs calling my name!)
Happy January! Hold your loved ones tight and celebrate every precious moment you have together. Share a warm mug of Glühwein, tell stories and share laughs, and remember to tell them you love them.
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(More photos of our German holiday to come in future blog posts, as I slowly sort through them and cull all the blurry shots of feet and rooftops.)
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Kitchen Frau Notes: You can make up a batch of traditional German dried Glühwein Gewürz (the dried spice mix) as a gift or for yourself ahead of time whenever you have oranges and lemons on hand. Cut the orange and lemon peel into chunks and let them dry, spread out on a paper towel at room temperature until crisp and dry (3 to 4 days). Use a piece of vanilla bean pod, chopped into pieces, and let it dry on the paper towel with the orange peel. Mix with the rest of the spices and pack into a little bag or tie it all up in a muslin square or layers of cheesecloth. Add instructions to mull the spices and add the sugar.
Traditional German Glühwein (Mulled Wine)
- 2 bottles (750ml each) of full-bodied red or white wine
- zest of 1 organic orange
- zest of ½ an organic lemon
- 1 stick (5"/13cm) of Ceylon cinnamon (or regular cinnamon)
- 4 whole cloves
- 4 juniper berries (or 4 cardamom pods)
- ¼ teaspoon whole fennel seeds
- 1 star anise pod (or ¼ teaspoon whole anise seeds)
- ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or a 2-inch piece of a vanilla bean pod without the seeds - pod only)
- 3 to 4 tablespoons (50gms) raw sugar, to taste
Peel the outer zest layer of the orange and the lemon half with a vegetable peeler or sharp paring knife in strips.
Break the cinnamon stick into small pieces. (If using a regular cinnamon stick, put it into a plastic bag and crush it with a hammer or can of food until it breaks into small bits.)
In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup of the wine with all the rest of the ingredients except the sugar. Bring to a simmer, then cover the saucepan and simmer the spices in the wine for 20 minutes.
Strain the hot wine into a larger saucepan through a fine meshed sieve, and add the remaining wine from the bottles. Add the sugar.
Heat the Glühwein over medium heat just until it is hot enough to drink (stick in a clean finger to test if it is not enough). Do not let the wine boil, or even come to a simmer, 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.
Serves 6 to 8.
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Welcome Back To Canada Margaret,
Happy to hear your travels were filled with family and adventure. Gluhwein is yummy and your stories make me want to make a batch right now. It's always warming to see pictures of your clan and hear about your holidays. We too are in a deep freeze time of the year. A perfect time for a warm cup of gluhwein. Thank you for sharing tips.
Thanks, Nancy! We were lucky to go on this holiday - such a special time, with lots of great memories made. But it's also always nice to come home again, even if it is to a bone-chilling deep freeze! Buses have been canceled all week here, and the temperatures keep dipping lower. But, the days are getting longer, so we know we're on the upward trend. Meanwhile, we'll just keep on sipping our Glühwein! Cheers to you!
Great pics! I feel warm already, reading the recipe and hearing about your Christmas adventures!
Thanks, Meredith! We need any way we can to stay warm in this weather! Memories of a great trip always help, as does a sip of something warm and spicy 😉
Wow, what a great trip and what a beautiful family! Experiencing travel delights vicariously through your wonderful descriptions! Thanks for sharing. 🙂
It was a REALLY special holiday. So much to see, and do, and taste. And the best part was that we could do it with crew. Thank you!
it's so weird and heart-warming to me seeing these pictures on your blog, with familiar sights and German writing everywhere! 🙂 I'm so happy you got to enjoy at least a bit of "Weihnachtsmarkt".
And I'm really sorry for your loss, a really strange and difficult experience. Thinking of you and your family. Keep warm!
Sincere greetings from foggy Cologne - we've barely dipped into the sub-zero temperatures by now, no true winter feelings over here so far, just the usual grey skies and a fair amount of rain (which is very much needed after the second hot and dry summer in a row, so I'll not complain). I would love having a bit of snow though...
I think your city must be beautiful! I'd love to see it some day! Even in winter, I find a real beauty in Germany - all those spectacular buildings! And still green things peeking through in the natural areas. I loved experiencing Munich in the winter and felt so blessed to be able to visit over Christmas and experience all the decorations and the amazing fireworks in our little town outside of Munich on New Year's Eve.
We are having snow, and cold, and more snow here in Canada. School buses were canceled for a whole week because the temperature kept dipping below -40 degrees Celsius. Although when the fresh snow has just come down, it is very pretty in it's own way - especially when the sun shines, too. It has finally warmed up this week.