Saturday, 19 December 2009

Mulling it over

It's very strange that Sarah could well have thought of asking me for my mulled wine recipe on the very evening that the troops came round to sample it at our Christmas do. You're very thoughtful, Sarah. Thank you. A seasonable request too, just in time for Christmas. If you try it, I hope it transports you and yours to unsuspected regions of delight.

I allow one 75cl bottle of red wine for every three people. It has to be a good red, obviously not a top vintage, but a quality red costing maybe £6-7. There's no point in mulling mediocre wine; it just comes out hot, but thin and so acid that it takes the lining off your throat. I used a heftyish local red called Mas Roueyre Terradou 2005, but I doubt if you'll find this on supermarket shelves elsewhere in the world. Any good red Vin de Pays d'Oc, Faugères, Minervois or St Chinian would do as well. The price is the pointer.

I was catering for nine people, so three bottles of Terradou went into a wide saucepan on a low heat. One of the secrets of a successful mulled wine is not to let it boil. If it boils, you might as well throw it out and start again. While the wine is warming, I prepare and add the other ingredients:

The juice of 6 navel oranges, freshly squeezed. Just the juice, no pulp or peel.

A muslin bag with goodly pinches of this and that: cloves, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, ginger, whatever you fancy. Sometimes you can buy these in ready-made sachets, like tea-bags.

6 level tablespoons of brown sugar. Muscovado is best, otherwise Cassonade or Demerara

Add all these in turn, stirring gently. If you have time, bring it up slowly to just below the boil, turn off the heat and leave it to stew for an hour or so. Just before serving, heat it up again, and as soon as the first beaded bubbles start to wink at the brim, i.e. boiling point is not far off, reduce the heat and add my SECRET INGREDIENT: sprinkle the mix with a little pepper. It makes all the difference.

Remove the muslin bag, and it's ready to serve. For your guests' convenience, ladle it into pre-warmed mugs with handles.

A few don'ts:

Don't add brandy or other spirits. It doesn't improve the taste or the texture, and it really isn't fair to turn your guests surreptitiously into hostages to fortune if they're driving.

Don't call it glühwein. It isn't. The French call it vin chaud, hot wine.

Don't use fancy methods to heat the wine. I learnt my lesson twice over: a) Don't use a tea-urn for large quantities. It stains the inside, flavours the wine with canteen tea and vice versa. b) Don't use a red-hot poker, as I did once, anxious to impress with a display of sizzling artistry. It works with ale, but not wine.

Here are the troops, or some of them, at the top of this post. They had to sing for their supper. They are a choir, after all. One, M., brought a wonderfully gooey birthday cake, all fruit, cream and chocolate vermicelli. Otherwise the ever-stunning J. made mince pies, a winner every time with the French. And we had crackers, but that's another story.

Happy days, Sarah.


Sarah said...

Aaaw thank you Christopher, very thoughtful. But I don't remember asking for this..? or are you just convinced I'm a lush???!

Yesterday, I managed to stagger and slip my way down to the pub for lunch. My Citroen Pluriel, being a tad Franco and hysterical in this weather refused to negotiate the snow drifts down the farm track. Electrics kept going on and off and the lure of a plate of Brasiola, a chunk of hearty bread dipped in olive oil, all swilled down with a couple of tumblers mulled wine, was just what was called for. Anyway, as I was supping the yummy heart warmer, I thought I must look up a recipe when I get home......So many thanks I will try yours.

Christopher said...

That's strange - I don't remember you asking me either. But I'm sure you would have done if you'd thought of it.

Brasiola....mmm. Is there any left?

patroclus said...

I was recently at a party where our hostess had made a supply of mulled apple juice in a coffee machine. It was surprisingly palatable.

Sarah said...

I was going to send you a Christmas card, but as you are not on FB I can't!

I, Like The View said...

I'd like more details of what's happening in the photo. . .

. . .to my untrained eye it looks as if someone is sitting at a piano and everyone else is holding a score

(oh and I'd like to hear about the cracker story too, please!)

Christopher said...

Braciola and mulled apple juice....mmm! And what's for pud?

Sorry, Sarah, can't be tempted. I'll just have to imagine your card on the mantelpiece. I see it there in my mind's eye already, alongside Dave's. I wonder how he is, by the way? Haven't heard from him for a day or two.

I: But your eye is perfectly well trained! Your interpretation is 100% accurate in every detail, except that there was a score on the piano desk, too.

Dave said...

I shall bear this recipe in mind for Christmas Day. Three bottles per person you say? Are you sure that's enough?

Sarah said...

Dave is see I know that cos we chat on facebook!!! along with Rog, Roses..etc.. ;0)

Sarah said...

Oh he's here...hi Dave

Christopher said...

Glad to hear Dave's in the land of the living. Did I say three bottles per person, Dave? Sorry, I meant eight.

Christopher said...

I: The cracker story involved utter mystification on the part of the French who were present and quite unused to this British phenomenon, not lessened by attempting to translate cracker riddles e.g.

Q: How does the snail keep his shell bright and shiny?

A: He uses snail varnish

- into French

Rog said...

I'm just pleased you used a muslin bag.

It's so nice to see all the faiths coming together at Christmas time.

Pays D'Oc is about £100k a year in the UK now so we won't be using that.

UberGrumpy said...

£7 a bottle? For mulled wine? Crikey. We normally use the leftovers from last year

Christopher said...

Rog: You think perhaps it was amishtake not to use a shaker? Should I slam the door on this methodism?

*pauses to stare out of window to think up a few more, decides to leave some room for others*

UG: Leftovers of mulled wine? As you say, Crikey. And you give blood?

patroclus said...

- Comment le ver maintient-il ses ongles aussi brillants?

- Avec du ver-nis.

Christopher said...

Tiens! Génial! Chouette!


patroclus said...

Did I say 'ongles'? I meant 'segments'.