Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Glögg For What Ails Ya

Continuing with the hot spiced posts!

So we live in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, which although experiencing rapid and, in some corners unwelcome change, has historically been the Scandinavian heart of town. And it's still pretty easy to get a glass of Glögg around the neighborhood this time of year. Pronounced 'glug' with a 'u' like in "turtle", it's a hot, spiced, and often fortified wine that, for many, is a winter staple. I mulled some mead last year, and it was ok, but I've never made Glögg. So I figured what better way to celebrate my near-total lack of Scandinavian heritage than by taking a crack at it.

There are about a million recipes for Glögg. But in the words of Jeremy Clarkson, "I was on the Internet and I found this..." Looking at several recipes I went with this one from a gentleman by the name of Craig "Meathead" Goldwyn. What attracted me was his reference to a historical recipe, fortification of the wine, and the idea of making enough to bottle it, so you just heat some up when you want it, rather than making a whole batch every time. Brilliant!

  • 1.5 liters of cheap, dry red wine. I used a WA Cab Sav that was $10.
  • 1.5 liters of port. I used one bottle of Whidbey's, a $14 WA fortified wine made by Chateau Ste Michelle from their Cold Creek vineyard and probably too nice for this application, and a bottle of Sheffield, a cheap CA port (Gallo) that was $7.
  • .375 liters of brandy. His recipe calls for .750ml, but only uses half. It's a bit confusing. Unless I was supposed to add the whole bottle and he just left that part out. So I just added to taste before it was done, which was about half the bottle total. I used a cheap VSOP, probably $14.
  • 10" of cinnamon sticks. I was suffering from stick envy and only had about 3", so I put a heaping teaspoon of ground cinnamon in to make up for the missing inches. DO NOT DO THIS. It just makes unpleasant grit at the bottom of your glass. Boo I say. Boo.
  • 15 cardamom pods, cracked with a pan.
  • 24 whole cloves
  • 1 orange peel. Used a potato peeler to take it off a navel orange. Avoid going too deep and getting the white layer, it's bitter.
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 cup blanched almonds. I picked up some blanched, slivered almonds in the bulk aisle.
  • 2 cups sugar
Ok. Wine and port go into a large pot. Add all the spices, the raisins, and the almonds. (It's probably a good idea to put the spices in a tea ball, or cheesecloth, to make separating them from the almonds and raisins easier later. I didn't do this and paid for it later.) Bring it up to about 120-30 and hold it there for about an hour. 'Simmer' on my stove worked pretty well. Remember, ethanol boils at 173 degrees. An hour at a near boil would significantly reduce the amount of alcohol in the wine. You wouldn't want to boil all the alcohol away now would you?

Meanwhile, in another smaller pot heat the 2 cups sugar and about half the bottle of cognac slowly until it starts to form large bubbles and is properly starting to caramelize. Remember: alcohol vapors can ignite, so don't go too hot on this one. Once it's caramelized nicely, into the large pot.

After an hour taste it. You can add more brandy or sugar to taste, I added about 100 ml more brandy. I think it's plenty of sugar. You could strain it and serve it now to a party full of thirsty family members on a frosty Christmas Eve, or to co-workers you don't particularly like and want to watch make fools of themselves at the company holiday party.

Or you could bottle it. He says to bottle while it's still hot, but I get the impression that he's reusing corks. Just shoving them in there. But I have a proper wine corker. And corking them while hot seems like it will just create a vacuum that will suck the cork further into the bottle. So I strained and let mine cool down to about 90 before I bottled. We'll see if cooling sucks the corks in any more. By the way, you could totally use beer bottles if you only have a crown capper. Or just shove an old cork in the bottle and drink it quickly.

I used four bottles, and you can reuse the bottles the wine came in. Didn't bother sanitizing anything, just made sure the bottles were clean. This high octane wine and will be drank by New Years. But I imagine a year in the cellar might meld things nicely, so I may make a batch for storage. Those bottles will be more thoroughly sanitized. When I was done I stuck some shrink capsules on, you know, just to be fancy.

Doing precise calculations is a bit difficult, particularly where sugar additions and heating, and thus water and alcohol evaporation, were involved. But I figure 1.5 liters of 13.5% wine, 1.5 liters of 18.5% port, and .375ml of 40% brandy works out to about 18.5% ABV. If you added the whole .750 of brandy it would be closer to 21%. Now that's a treat for Santa!

How is it? Outstanding. Delicious. Frankly, way better than the Wassail. Warm, spicy, nice oxidized-port notes, warming brandy finish, sweet but not too sweet, pleasantly orangy. The cardamom is a great addition.

With four bottles I've pretty much got Christmas covered, but I'm thinking I may do another 8 or so to get through the Winter. I figure I could make that much for about $50. Not too bad, considering that's over a gallon and a half of 18.5% spiced wine. In Scandinavia it is also made with aquavit. I'm thinking of getting another bottle of Linie and giving it a try. And I'll be saving the leftover raisins and almonds for something later in the week.


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