The closer we hurtle towards Christmas, the busier everything gets!
And my life has been intensely hectic — between going to school and working two jobs, it can be tough to de-stress at the end of the day. You’d think that after 14 hours of being on my feet that falling asleep would be easy, but sometimes it’s really not.
This is unusual for me, but I’ve actually been a bit of an insomniac over these last couple weeks despite how physically exhausted I am.
Also, dead serious: I’ve been dreaming of dessert! Not even kidding!
Lately I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night, my fading dreams swirling with visions of mince pie and gingerbread and bûche de noël — clearly I’ve got pastry on the brain, even when I close my eyes!
The worst part about it is how I wake up totally starving just because I’ve been seeing all this tasty food in my head, then it’s hard to go back to sleep all mentally overstimulated and curiously hungry (and I refuse to be a midnight muncher — it’s just not good for your health).
Is this an appropriate FML moment?
Anyways, winter time is definitely the best time of year to get’cho bake on — there’s nothing as comforting as a heavy blanket and a warm treat from the oven on a frost-dusted winter night — and it’s also the best time of year to get’cho drink on.
Nightcap of choice: glühwein, also known as: mulled wine — not so popular in North America, but it’s got a really long and rich history over in Europe.
The soothing sweetness, the aroma of spice and fruit, the warm liquid in your tummy… yes, mulled wine is where it’s at!
The fun part of making mulled wine is how there isn’t really any one recipe for it — everybody can create their own blend of spices, herbs, fruit, vanilla, and sugar and mull any kind of red wine they want.
It is recommended to use a full-bodied red, like Shiraz, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Bordeaux when making mulled wine, since the infusing process will considerably mellow out the tannins in more potent reds.
Another key point to remember: your infusion must not be heated above 170°F/77°C, lest you boil off the alcohol that makes mulled wine, well… wine!
- 1 bottle (750ml) full-bodied red wine, like Shiraz
- 5 black peppercorns
- 3 whole cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 whole star anise
- 1 pinch of cardamom seeds or cardamom pod
- 2 strips of orange peel, pith cut away
- 1 strip of lemon peel, pith cut away
- 1 spring of fresh rosemary
- 1/3 cup white sugar
Prepare all your spices, herbs, and fruit peel. Combine them with the red wine and sugar in a small saucepan.
Over very low heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, stew the wine without boiling or simmering it for about 1 hour.
If you have a thermometer handy, check the temperature and keep the mulled wine from going over 170°F/77°C (this is the point at which alcohol with evaporate) — it’s normal to see a little steam coming off the liquid, but not too much.
After an hour, take the saucepan off the stove, strain the spices, herbs, and fruit out of the liquid and serve the warm mulled wine.
Leftover wine can be allowed to cool to room temperature and then stored in a resealable bottle for at least 2 weeks.
Next up, a recipe for vin d’orange — a vanilla and citrus-infused rosé wine that I’ve been meaning to make since forever.
It contains vodka and rum, so not only is vin d’orange a more potent potion than mulled wine, but it also has to age a lot longer in order to develop its flavour. I’ll be updating on my results with this project in January, since I plan to drink at least some of it to celebrate New Years Eve!
Note for this recipe: it’s important to use organic fruit, as pesticides on the peel will end up in the infusion.
*adapted from The NY Times online
- tool: minimum 1 litre capacity resealable glass jar or container
- 1 bottle (750ml) dry rosé wine, preferably French
- 1/4 cup good quality vodka, like Pinky
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 large organic navel orange
- 1 small organic lemon
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 vanilla bean pod, split
- 2 tablespoons dark spiced rum
Wash and prepare the orange and lemon, cutting into thick slices. Split the vanilla bean open, but do not scrape the seeds from the inside.
Combine the dry rosé wine, vodka, and white sugar in a large glass jar and stir the liquid with a clean metal utensil.
Add the cinnamon stick, split vanilla bean pod, orange slices, and lemon slices to the jar. Stir again and seal the jar.
Keep the jar in the fridge, shaking occasionally to dissolve the sugar, for 4 ~ 6 weeks.
Once the infusion period is over, stir in the dark rum, then strain the contents of the jar through a double-fine mesh sieve or several layers of cheesecloth.
Return the vin d’orange to its container and store in a cool place.
Enjoy this concoction straight or cut with soda water for as long as it lasts!
Raise your glass to homemade infusions! Yum!