I’ve been kept busy last weeks, but I eventually have more time to jump in the Christmas spirit currently overflowing the blogosphere. We set up the Christmas tree, purchased the last gifts and more, started thinking about more sophisticated food.
My input to feast atmosphere is my own and favorite version of a drink which is traditional both in Central Europe and in France around Christmas, I called mulled wine (vin chaud, that is “hot wine” in French, and forralt bor, that is “boiled wine” in Hungarian). The method is quite simple: simmer wine (usually red) with sugar, citrus slices and spices to turn it into a non-alcoholic, yet warming and very aromatic beverage. It’s the perfect drink to pair with hot chestnuts !
A couple of years ago it occurred to me not only to make mulled wine at home instead of freezing in a queue at the Christmas market, but also to complement the usual ingredients with tonka bean, a spice which was quite prominent back then. And its sweet and musky aroma matched indeed well with wine.
So this year I afforded myself again a box of these magical beans and made some mulled wine, using a bottle of a here-favoured local Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil. As for the remaining ingredients, I went quite classic : oranges, ginger, brown sugar, cinnamon and cloves. By the way, I find cinnamon taste somewhat overwhelming, so if you aim for a pronounced taste of tonka, feel free to skip it.
This perhaps didn’t deserve a blogpost, but I take this opportunity to introduce you an easy DIY : how to turn the ingredients of this mulled wine into a ready-to-serve mulled wine mix, which could make for a (very-last-minute) Christmas gift.
Tonka bean mulled wine
- 2 cups of red wine (not a vintage wine nor a too cheap one)
- 2-3 slices of organic orange, rinsed
- 2 tonka beans, rinsed
- 1 (1-inch long) knob of ginger, scrubbed or peeled
- 1 stick cinnamon (skip it for a better feel of tonka bean), rinsed
- 3 cloves
- 15-20 gr. brown sugar (I use Asian slab sugar)
- make sure your ingredients, at least the fresh ones, are organic, and rinse them all well before infusing into the wine
- white wine or apple cider can be used too, as well as grape juice if you aim for a less boozy taste (but then you’ll have to adjust the amount sugar or even skip it)
Put all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Turn the heat to low and keep simmering for 10 minutes. Strain and serve straightaway (along some hot chestnuts, of course).
DIY mulled wine mix to gift
- 1 organic orange
- 3 tonka beans
- 3 small cinnamon sticks (or cinnamon stick halves)
- 6 cloves
- 1 pc of ginger (2-3 inches long)
- 30 gr. brown sugar (cut into small cubes if using slab sugar)
- 3 unbleached coffee filters
- food string
- 1 needle
- 2 paper sheets (29,7 x 29,7 cm / 11,7 x 11,7 in), at least 90gr. density (opt., for the gift box)
Note: none of the spices listed above is actually necessary, you can make the mix of your choice according to the taste of the one you intend it to be for.
Cut the orange into 5mm-thick slices. Arrange them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and put them into the oven set on the lowest heat until they look dry and shriveled (it took me half a day in a 50°C/120°F oven). Let them thoroughly cool down out of the oven.
At the same time than the orange, cut the ginger into thin (about 2mm-thick) slices and air dry them on a piece of paper towel. You can hasten the process by putting the slices on the top of a radiator.
Make the gift box if needed (you can use any kind of container for your mulled wine bags, but I didn’t have any nice one on hand and also wanted to play around a little). You’ll find a very helpful tutorial here. Since I used white paper, I added some watercolour over it to make it look fancier, but it’s absolutely optional (especially if you used coloured paper sheets) and you could most certainly be more imaginative !
Cut the top third of the coffee filters and sew their upper edge so as to be able to close them like purses. Put into each filter 2 orange slices, 1 tonka bean, 1 cinnamon stick (or half one), 2 cloves, 1-2 slices of ginger and about 10 gr. sugar. Pull both ends of the string to close the bags up and make a slipknot to tighten it. You can add a small piece of paper at one end of the string to write the content or a small message.
Put the purses in the box (mine could keep 3 bags) and don’t forget to specify how to use the mulled wine mix bags:
- Pour 1-1 ½ cup of wine into a small saucepan
- Add a mulled wine mix bag
- Bring to a simmer
- Lower the heat
- Let simmer undisturbed for 5-10 mns
- Remove the bag
- Serve hot !