Mulling Over Chanukah

Mulling Over Chanukah

Heated, seasoned wine is just the drink for the winter festival.

More than most Jewish holidays, Chanukah is a festival celebrated by consuming traditional, regional foods. For Jews of Russian/Lithuanian ancestry, the food of choice is potatoes latkes; for Polish Jews, it’s ratzelech (latkes made with a mixture of potatoes and apples); for Italian Jews, it’s fried chicken, and for Israelis it’s jelly donuts and mulled wine.

Mulled (i.e., heated and seasoned) wine has been drunk for millennia, and in the early days of the American republic, it was a popular wintertime tipple, along with mulled cider, mulled ale and mulled rum. Today, however, while mulled wine may be about as as popular in the United States as the Edsel, in Israel it is rapidly becoming the drink of choice at Chanukah parties, and for good reason. In spite of its antiquated reputation and lack of popularity in America, mulled wine is tasty, inexpensive, easy to make and a great drink for Chanukah, or any other festive wintertime occasion.

So for this for this month’s Fruit of the Vine we provide three easy and tasty recipes for mulled wine.

Glögg (Israeli Chanukah Punch) (Serves 12)

It not exactly clear when or why this Swedish hot wine punch became so popular in Israel as a Chanukah drink, but today it is ubiquitous there during the festival. There are probably hundreds, if not thousands of good recipes for Glögg, but this is the one we use in the Kronemer household:

2 bottles of Bordeaux-style red wine (see note below)

1 tsp. of Angostura Aromatic Bitters

q cup of brown sugar

4 tsp. cardamom seeds (removed from the pods)

2 whole cloves

6 allspice berries

½ inch piece of ginger, peeled and quartered

The zest of one small orange (A Seville orange is best. Make sure to remove only the outer layer of the zest, leaving the white pith.)

½ of a cinnamon stick

1 cup of blanched almond slivers

1 cup of dark raisins

In a half-gallon mason jar combine the wine, brown sugar, and bitters. Wrap the ginger, zest and spices in a triple layer of cheesecloth, and seal with kitchen twine. Drop the spice packet into the jar, then seal the jar and give it a good shake. Let the jar sit in a cool dark place for 10-12 hours, giving it a good shake every few hours. Then remove the spice packet and heat in a slow cooker or chafing dish until almost simmering. To serve, put a handful of raisins and almond slivers in the bottom of each glass, then ladle in the hot punch.

English Bishop (Serves 5)

This sweet, port-wine-based drink dates to the 17th century, or perhaps earlier. The name, Bishop, is apparently a reference to the drink’s color, which is similar to the shade of purple found on an Anglican Bishop’s vestments.

1 bottle of Port wine (see note below)

1 medium-sized orange densely studded with whole cloves

1 tbsp. of brown sugar

6 tbsp. of Cognac (optional)

nutmeg, freshly grated

Moisten the skin of the orange with 1 tbsp. of Cognac (or water), then dust the orange with the brown sugar. Roast or broil the orange until its skin has turned brown, and the sugar has caramelized. Quarter the orange and put it into a 2-quart saucepan. Cover the orange quarters with the port wine, then cover the saucepan, and simmer for 20 minutes. To serve, mix in the remaining Cognac, ladle into glasses, and garnish each glass with a little freshly grated nutmeg.

The Locomotive (Serves 1)

This rich and satiny-smooth concoction was likely invented in the early 19th century, at about the same time as the locomotive engine, for which it was named.

½ cup of Bordeaux-style red wine (see note below)

1 tbsp. of DeKuyper’s Orange Curacao

2 tbsp. of honey

2 egg yolks, well beaten

Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan, and stir until the honey is fully dissolved. Place the saucepan over a low flame and stir continuously until the mixture is about to start simmering. Remove the saucepan from the flame before it actually starts to simmer, and serve immediately.

Note on wine selection: One need not, and should not, mull expensive wines. Much of a wine’s nuance will be lost in the mulling process. For a Bordeaux-style red, Yarden’s Mount Hermon Red, Baron Herzog’s Merlot, Recanati’s Merlot, and Benyamina’s Yogev Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot would all be good choices. For a port wine, while a true Portuguese Port, such as Porto Corvordero’s Ruby Port would be best, other less expensive Ports, such as Kedem’s 50th Anniversary Port should also work well.

Note on equipment. One should always make and serve mulled wine in non-reactive vessels. I like to mull wine in either earthenware, enamel-lined, or stainless-steel pots. Never mull wine in aluminum, as it can give the wine an off-putting metallic taste. I also find it best to serve mulled wine in those small, footed, glass mugs known as either London dock glasses or Irish coffee glasses. The clear glass allows one to appreciate the color as well as the flavor of the drink.

Fruit of the Vine appears monthly.

read more: