Ep16 - Mulled Wine - Twelve Foods of Christmas

 Circe with Mulled wine by Gioacchino Assereto, Italian Baroque painter, c 1630. Circe is the goddess of magic, portrayed as a sorceress or witch, with skills and expertise in potions and turning her enemies into beasts. Indeed she is probably most famous as an enchantress from Homer’s Odyssey. Listen below for more information.

Circe with Mulled wine by Gioacchino Assereto, Italian Baroque painter, c 1630.
Circe is the goddess of magic, portrayed as a sorceress or witch, with skills and expertise in potions and turning her enemies into beasts. Indeed she is probably most famous as an enchantress from Homer’s Odyssey. Listen below for more information.

Ep16 - Mulled Wine - Twelve Foods of Christmas

It has lots of the familiar spices we associate with Christmas infused together in warmed wine, spirits, fruit and sugar. Walk in to a party from the cold and serving mulled wine and you’ll know instantly as it saturates your sense of smell and warms you up as it fills your belly. Since pre-history we have found ways to drink fermented beverages and we owe thanks to the Greeks and the Romans for specifically bringing mulled wine to Northern Europe and throughout the world. We'll discuss Circe, her role in the Odyssey and with Odysseus will be discussed as well as her appearance in Gioacchino Assereto's painting Circe Mulling Wine. I share my own tips and recipe for mulled wine and more.

  • There are many Christmas or wintery seasonal warm alcoholic drinks which all fall under the umbrella of Christmas punches of which there are many types: mulled wines, wassail, egg nog and more.

  • Humans have been drinking fermented alcoholic beverages since our Neolithic past of roughly 10,000 -12,000years ago.

  • In Britain we were content drinking the alcoholic ciders from fermented fruit or beers, ales and mead from grains.

  • Alcoholic drinks were used ceremoniously, for gatherings, in order to avoid wastage and save resources and also to just generally relieve stress, create community bonds, keep warm and to relieve pain and act medicinally. All the same reasons that we enjoy and sometimes abuse alcohol in modern times.

  • Ales and beer in Britain long provided safe drinking water and was so thick it was almost a hearty drink providing sustenance to women, children and men.

    We have the Romans to thank for mulled wine. Ancient Greeks and Romans saved excess wine from being lost to spoilage by heating it and adding honey, fruit and spices. As their Empire exploits brought them to the colder climates of Northern Europe, Romans brought wine with them and Roman soldiers prepared mulled wine to keep them warm.

  • There were existing warm spirit concoctions like Wassail made with cider, mead and spices from the Middle Ages and earlier. In Britain, the wealthy enjoyed their wines imported from areas of Europe with established grape vineyards.

  • Un-palatable or lesser quality wines benefited from heat, sweetening and spices. And as explorers and traders were bringing back exotic spices, herbs and ingredients these were being explored for their medicinal properties.

  • From the middle ages onwards we see wine undergo a rebrand as a medicinal drink with all sorts of variations of recipes and remedies being shared and sold.

  • There are variations of mulled wine all over the world with many of them being enjoyed during winter festivals an holidays.

  • Everyone has their own recipe and while there are ready-made sachets I always prefer to make my own.

  • Careful attention must be paid so that the mixture isn’t burnt, turned to syrup or that the alcohol doesn’t burn off. Making and serving mulled in in soup kettles for parties is perfect because once it is prepared it can be kept at the perfect serving temperature.

 Scrooge and Bob Crachit illustration (source:  Tori Avey )

Scrooge and Bob Crachit illustration (source: Tori Avey)

Smy Goodness Mulled Wine Recipe

My recipe calls for a bit of preparation in having a 6 oranges and 1-2 lemons to hand. I juice and finely zest half of the oranges and the rest I halve and then put a handful of cloves into the skin, then slice and reserve. The lemons I juice and finely zest and reserve those. I also grate a piece of fresh ginger until you have 2 Tbsp grated ginger and its juice.

For the spices I use a mortar and pestle to grind as fine as possible the following:
cinnamon
nutmeg
black pepper
mace
cloves
star anise

  1. Add 4 bottles of wine to your biggest saucepan or ideally a soup kettle, use wine that you would be happy to drink on it’s own. Go for a full flavoured wine that can handle all the spice you will be adding to it.

  2. Add the juice, ginger juice, 100g sugar, the fresh cloves orange slices and a healthy glug of brandy.

  3. Warm it up slowly and don't allow it to reach a rolling boil or to burn. Taste and season as necessary.

  4. You may need to top up the mulled wine after your guests have been enjoying your delicious tipple. If it’s going to be a big one you can always prepare double the amount of spices and reserve for an additional batch which if not used on the night will no doubt be used for another mulled wine soiree.

A few years back I decided to bundle all my interests together and rebrand from Smy Chutney to Smy Goodness so that all my preserves, crafts, products and workshops could live together in one place. My own podcast seemed a suitable place to uncover, understand and enjoy things related to food, art, history and design. Please do share your stories, knowledge, questions and suggestions. In the Smy Goodness.com podcast section you will find the podcasts and all the items that we are discussing and will have ongoing discussions about each week.

You can also follow Smy Goodness on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. I'd like to thank Ashley Palmer for use of his Roland R-09 and Matteo Borea for creating the music. Thank you for listening.