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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