Thursday, December 11, 2014

Classic Mulled Wine

If you are over the age of 21 and have a family,
you are well aware of how important 
drinking is around the holidays. 

Alcohol is a great thing to have around 
at any family gathering for 
when grandpa needs something to blame for 
the awkward racist comments he made at dinner
and mom needs something to help
her forget that it happened.

It's got everyone's back, for better or for worse. 

If you've ever hosted a Holiday gathering of any sort, 
you also understand that providing such social lubricants 
can be an expensive thing. 

You spring for the $40 bottle of wine 
that gets sucked down before Uncle Jerry is even halfway 
through his conspiracy theory rant.

This is a problem. 
I have the answer. 

Mulled. Wine.
Mulling wine cinderellas the crap out of cheap wines.

It's the same logic as any sort of "jungle juice" 
or "insert cheap alcohol name here bucket"
you had in college. 
Take something cheap, yet alcoholic. 
Cover up the bad parts of it with better things.

With mulled wine, you can take a few cheap bottles of wine,
add fruit and cider and spices and a little bit of booze,
and it is cleaned up and ready for the ball. 

Trader Joes has a slightly-above-mediocre line of wines
(The Charles Shaw Collection: AKA "Two-Buck Chuck")
 that retail between $2-$4 that are perfect for this.


2 bottles of inexpensive red wine. (I used a Merlot)
4 c. apple cider

1/3 c. honey
3 cinnamon sticks

1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 vanilla bean, cut lengthwise

2 tsp. whole cloves

1/2 c. brandy or bourbon
1 lemon, sliced

2 oranges, sliced

Combine all ingredients in a large pot.
 I don't mind the cloves floating around in my wine,
but if this is something that is going to upset you, you can use a mulling bag 
or a tied up piece of cheese cloth to contain the spices.
Warm on low heat. Do not bring to a simmer or boil, 
this will start to cook the alcohol out.

I like to keep mine on low heat for a while (20 minutes or so) 
before serving, and give it a good stir every couple of minutes to really 
let the flavors blend together. 
Once the mixture is warmed, it is ready to serve!
At this point, you can strain the fruit and spices out if you wish,
but I think it is charming to have little bits of
fruit and cinnamon sticks in the glass. 
Call me crazy. 


Happy drinking, ladies and gentlemen!


Monday, December 8, 2014

Holiday Stovetop Simmer

If I walk into a place and it smells good, I instantly assume that whoever 
is responsible for where I am really has their shit together. 
Because the air controls smells. 
If you can make all of the air smell good, you are kind of the boss of the air. 
And that sounds really, really hard. 

It's something that only storybook grandmas that live in log cabins and Martha Stewart
know how to do, and the secret is going with them to their graves.

Well, for all of you poor souls with dwindling hope of ever achieving such aromatic successes,
wipe those tear stains off of your Yankee Candle catalogue. 
I have great news. 
I found a trick.

Simmering stovetop potpourri. 

I know that you're disappointed that the word "stovetop" 
wasn't immediately followed by "Kraft brand Stuffing in a box"
and that potpourri comes bearing the
connotation of 
"that dried up flower stuff that old people keep by their toilets."

But listen.

This stovetop potpourri is like an air Nazi. 
Keep it simmering on your stove for the afternoon
and it will reign over all of the air in your entire house.
It has serious powers. 
Everything will smell like Christmas and
every person who walks into your home will say
"Everything smells like Christmas."

This is the perfect thing to make people think that you have your life together.

Nobody is going to think
 "This girl's house smells amazing, I'll bet she just learned how to write a check."
"This girl's house feels like sticking my nose in Christmas, she probably 
had to instill a personal rewards system to get herself to shower regularly."

Nope. There are no thoughts beyond the "put together" one.

The best thing about this is that it is ridiculously simple.
You pretty much just take a laundry list of good smelling things,
put them in a pot and let them do their thing.
It can also be changed up for different holidays and seasons by putting
different spices, fruits and aromatics in it.


1 2-inch chunk of fresh ginger
2 oranges, cut in half
1 1/2 c. fresh cranberries
3 cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla bean + 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. cloves
2 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup. apple cider
3 c. water
1-2 pine branches

Combine all ingredients in a sturdy pot. 
Simmer on low heat, adding water as needed.


-When you first put it on, it looks marvelous.
After simmering all day, it looks like a pot full of mud with sticks in it.
Do not be alarmed. We can't all stay pretty forever.
It'll still smell good.

-Keep adding water!!
This bad boy loses liquid pretty quickly. Keep stocking the pot
with water to keep everything from burning, and thusly
negating the whole "this person has their shit together"

-If the scent weakens, you can add more vanilla extract 
or more cider to lift it back up again. However, you likely won't need to. 
The scent lasts a LONG time. I simmered mine for 9 hours before 
I felt the need to add anything to it. 

-People are going to try to drink it.
Don't let people try to drink it. 

Until the next, dears!