Previously in DIY gift ideas: Chocolate buttercreams
I. The end of semester/holiday season is a busy time, so here’s a photo essay:
II. Briefly: what, why, and how
Mulled cider and wine is popular all over Europe and North America during the winter holiday season—in the Nordic countries it’s called glögg, in Germany it’s glühwein (glow wine), in France vin chaud (hot wine), in Poland grzane wino (heated wine), in Italy vin brulé (boiled wine) (Wikipedia can tell you all about these and more). In English, we also have “wassail,” which usually refers to mulled cider. However, the word is contraction of the Middle English wæs hæil, meaning “good health” or literally “be you healthy,” a toast and a testament to the inherently celebratory and social nature of drinking warm, spiced fruit juice (Wikipedia can tell you all about that, too).
The basic formula is fermented grape or apple juice + sugar or honey + cinnamon and/or peppercorns, simmered and served hot. There are lots of variations—the earliest versions of wassail were probably made with beer or mead instead of cider, glögg is sometimes made with pear juice, some versions involve adding some rum or a liqueur, spices vary from country to country and probably pot to pot. Other common additions are citrus fruits, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla.
The most spectacular version I’ve ever had was called feuerzangenbowle, and involved suspending a cone of sugar over a pot of hot spiced wine on a piece of slotted metal vaguely like a cheese grater. You douse the sugar with rum and set it on fire, so the sugar caramelizes as it drips into the bowl. As you ladle out cups, the alcohol in the bowl of the ladle catches fire from the burning sugar, so you literally end up handing people little cups of flame.
If I could capture that in a little cheesecloth satchet to give to people for Christmas, I would. I guess this is like the next best thing:
Recipe: Mulling Spice Bundles
- a quadruple-layer of cheesecloth about 6” square*
- a 8-10” piece of un-waxed dental floss
- 1 t. whole cloves
- 2 1” pieces of cinnamon stick
- 1 t. dried orange or lemon zest
- 1 T. brown sugar (optional, dark is better—more molasses flavor)
- 1 t. whole all-spice berries (optional)
- 1” piece of candied ginger (optional)
- 1” piece of vanilla bean (optional—I used my spent beans, which I keep in a jar of sugar)
- 1/2 a nutmeg, lightly crushed (optional)
- 1/2 t. whole peppercorns (optional)
- 4-6 whole cardamom pods (optional)
- a quadruple-layer of cheesecloth about 9” square*
- a 10-12” piece of un-waxed dental floss
- 1 T. whole cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks, broken into 1” pieces
- 1 T. dried orange or lemon zest
- 1/4 c. brown sugar (optional, dark is better—more molasses flavor)
- 1 T. whole all-spice berries (optional)
- 3-4 1” pieces of candied ginger (optional)
- 1 vanilla bean (optional—I used my spent beans, which I keep in a jar of sugar)
- 2 whole nutmegs, lightly crushed (optional)
- 2 t. whole peppercorns (optional)
- a dozen or so whole cardamom pods (optional)
I used cloves, cinnamon sticks, orange zest, brown sugar, all-spice berries, candied ginger, and spent vanilla beans. I think cloves, cinnamon sticks, and citrus zest are the only essential things (and would be sufficient on their own) but you can use whatever else you like or can afford.
*A 2-yard package of cheesecloth makes about 8 small bundles or 6 large bundles, or 4 small ones and 2 large ones.
1. If you’re zesting your own oranges, do that at least 12 hrs in advance and let the zest air dry on baking sheets lined with waxed paper.
2. Cut the cheesecloth into pieces and fold into squares.
3. Add the stuff, gather the ends together, and tie it up with the floss.
4. Package with instructions for use, like:
Instructions: Place one pouch in a mug of hot cider or wine and let steep for 3-5 minutes. Press to strain and remove. Add sugar to taste, if desired. May be used multiple times—press to remove liquid, let air dry, and store in an airtight container.
For an entire bottle of wine, empty the bottle into a saucepan, add two spice pouches, and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add ¼-½ cup sugar per bottle if desired.
Or, if you’re just giving someone one of the big pouches, perhaps along with a bottle of wine:
Instructions: Place pouch in a saucepan with one or two bottles of wine. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add ¼-½ cup sugar per bottle if desired. Serve warm.