Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mulled Wine

     I have posted a bunch of my family's traditional holiday recipes, this next one is one of my own traditions, mulled wine. The smell of mulling wine or cider is a sure sign of holiday gatherings.

     Alcohol has never been a big thing at our family Christmas gatherings, well not for a lot of us anyway. Neither of my sets of grandparents drank or drink much, my Grandpa Craig not at all, so it wasn't around a lot at Christmas dinner. I, on the other hand, enjoy the occasional beverage. LOL  Beer is my preferred poison, but the next few posts are some things to help with the merry at your holiday functions.

     I have tried a million recipes for mulling wine and this is the one I like the best. It was given to me by a co worker. It is simple, no muss, no fuss and delicious.

Mulled Wine
1-750 ml bottle of wine
1-375 ml bottle of brandy
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
Tied in a small cheesecloth bag
6 cloves, 3 allspice berries and 3-4 nutmeg chips
In a large non-reactive pot, combine wine and brandy. Stir in brown sugar until dissolved. Add cinnamon sticks and spice bag. Heat to the boiling point, reduce heat and simmer at least 30 minutes before serving. Do not boil. If it boils you are burning the alcohol out of the wine. When ready to serve, remove the cinnamon sticks and spice bag and discard.

Note: If you have port on hand it can be added as you prepare the liquid, up to equal proportion with the wine.

     The only thing I change about this recipe, is the addition of orange slices. I have no idea why but the taste of oranges goes extremely well with red wine. I add an orange for every 750 ml - litre of liquid. I bring mine to a boil in a stock pot them transfer it into my slow cooker to keep it warm. No burning off the alcohol for me. I usually provide a cinnamon stick to stir it with as well. I also keep my spice bag for the inevitable second round that needs to be prepared when the first batch disappears.

     I do not use great quality wine when making this or when I cook, the good stuff is for drinking unaltered. The strong taste of the spices completely mask any subtle notes in the wine so I go for inexpensive and volume. I have no idea who started the whole cook with what you drink thing, but I always think why waste it. I don't have a single recipe that calls for wine that doesn't mask the delicate flavours to the point where they are completely lost. Wine certainly adds a dimension to any recipe but is not usually the predominant taste. Every restaurant I have ever worked in has the "box of cooking wine" beside the grill to cook with, so ...

       The same combination of spices can be used to mull cider, another of my cold weather favourites.

    Add the cinnamon sticks and the spice bag to about 2 litres of apple cider and bring to a boil, then simmer for about half and hour same as for the wine. I transfer mine to the slow cooker. I keep the alcohol out of the cider and have spiced rum or amber on the side to add if people want. That way I have an alcoholic and dry option for my guests. Garnish with cinnamon stick and your well on your way to merry. Enjoy.

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