WINE O’CLOCK: Something hot to mull over
Mulled wine is popular at this time of year – but not with me.
I like the smell from the bubbling cinnamon, cloves and fruit, and I like the idea of a warming winter drink. But, in truth, I usually find it a disappointing waste of good wine.
A lot of shops sell a ready-mixed wine that only needs to be heated. But it won’t give you all the nice fruity smells unless you add fruit and spice – in which case you would be as well making it from scratch.
There are some very complicated recipes around, but the simple approach works as well as any.
Heat a couple of bottles of red wine – a cheap Cabernet Sauvignon will do the job nicely. Add six tablespoons of honey, an orange studded with cloves, a few slices of orange and lemon, some ground ginger and a cinnamon stick, and allow to simmer gently for 20 minutes. Viola!
You can mull cider – or apple juice if you don’t want the alcohol – in the same way. Add the same fruit, plus two star anise, a little ground nutmeg instead of the ginger and, instead of the honey, demerara sugar to taste.
Mulled Port is another variation. Use ruby Port and water – about twice as much Port as water. Same ingredients as for the mulled cider. Put them in the water and bring it slowly to the boil, then simmer for about ten minutes. Stir in the Port and gently reheat.
Mulling dates back to the Middle Ages. Felicity Cloake, a journalist with The Guardian in London, tried out a recipe from 1390. She ground together cinnamon, ginger, galangal, cloves, long pepper, nutmeg, marjoram, cardamom, grains of paradise (?) and Indian root, slung in some cheap French red and sugar and heated it all.
Her verdict: “It tastes like something that might have been used to ward off the plague.”
Would it work on Covid-19, I wonder?