I wait for this season all year long. There’s something magical about the cold creeping back into the air, and the darkness rolling in to cloak the sky, that sets my soul at ease. It’s an introvert’s dream come true, and I am more than eager to welcome the quiet into my home. Fall is a time for lucidity, when the veils between the worlds begin to thin, and truth is suddenly naked, unmasked for us all to witness. It is a time of reckoning; a time for preparing ourselves for the long winter ahead.
I like to keep my home extra warm at this time of year. Perhaps it’s because of the chill in the air, or the darkness all around, but I think it’s partly due to the spirit world opening up and the ancestors coming through for a visit. These spirit world visitors add an extra chill to the air, and I’m constantly bumping up my thermostat to accomodate for those extra chilly nights.
Another way I love to keep warm is through baking, lots of baking, and turning my hand to mulling just about anything I can get my hands on. Spiced apple cider is a popular choice in my home, but I must confess that I do prefer the ancient rite of mulling wine, especially when spiked with spirits (the drinking kind). This balances out the chill that seems to permeate almost everything around us at this time of year.
Mulled wine is an ancient drink dating back to Roman times where spices were used to preserve wine, and to mask the sourness of wine turning to vinegar. And up until the 18th century, wine was often safer to drink than water, which ran the risk of being contaminated with bacteria such as cholera. There’s also evidence of medicinal wines infused with herbs and resins dating back as early as 3150 BC in Egypt. Mulling wine is truly an ancient ritual.
The term “mulled wine” was coined in England, where the word “mull” referred to a brew that was heated and spiced. However, hot spiced wine is also vastly popular all over Eastern Europe, with many countries having their own variation of the drink: Nordic Glögg; German Feuerzangenbowle; Czech Svařák; Russian Glintwein; and Polish Grzane, just to name a few.
I’ve been spicing wine for several years, and the recipe that I’ve finally come to love is a loose variation of Jamie Oliver’s mulled wine, although I add *a lot* more spices – so many in fact that you’d scarcely recognize the recipe. He introduced me to the technique of brewing spices into a potent syrup before adding the bulk of your alcohol, which has completely transformed the quality of my brews. He also includes all four crucial types of ingredients: wine, spice, citrus, and sweetener.
Since, much to my chagrin, my husband does not like sugar, I am constantly on the hunt for ways to invoke sweetness into my creations in a way that he can also enjoy. Being a hearty, kapha-pitta kinda gal (or melancholic-choleric if you prefer), I’ve developed this particular mulled wine recipe, which is a lovely balance of dry and sweet, spicy and fruity. I use an apple cider base with honey, but this can easily be substituted it with a traditional syrup base made with good ‘ole fashion sugar.
Cranberry Apple Mulled Wine
2 cups Apple Cider
3 Tbsp Honey
3″ piece Ginger diced
1 Tbsp decorticated Cardamom
1 Tbsp crushed Cinnamon sticks
1/2 tsp Cloves
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1/4 tsp crushed Vanilla pods (optional)
3 Star Anise Pods
1 orange sliced
1/2 lemon sliced
1 cup fresh Cranberries
Bring to a gentle boil on medium-high heat until steaming and slightly frothing on top, and then reduce to simmer. Let simmer with the lid ajar for 30-40 minutes.
1 batch Mulled Syrup (above)
1 Litre Wine
1/4 cup Brandy (optional)
Gently heat above ingredients together until warm. Do not bring to a boil, which will evaporate the alcohol and risk making the brew bitter. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes (or as long as you can wait).
The ancient rite of drinking hot spiced wine makes this dark season more bearable and enjoyable. May this lovely brew help invoke the spirits of hearth into your cold fall homes, and greet the dark times with the lightness of spirit.