Yield. Makes about five 750 ml bottles
Preparation time. About 90 minutes
1.5 liter bottle inexpensive dry red wine
1.5 liter bottle inexpensive American port
750 ml bottle inexpensive brandy
10 inches total of cinnamon sticks
15 cardamom seed pods or 1 teaspoon whole cardamom seeds
2 dozen whole cloves
1 orange peel, whole and washed
1/2 cup dark raisins
1 cup blanched almonds
2 cups sugar
Garnish with the peel of another orange
About the wine, port, and brandy. There is no need to invest in expensive wine, port, or brandy because the spices are going to pre-empt any innate complexity of a fine wine, but don't use anything cheap. Remember, the sum will be no better than its parts. If you want to play, instead of brandy try using Swedish aquavit, a caraway flavored vodka popular in Scandinavia.
About the raisins. Golden raisins will work, but dark raisins are better.
About the cardamom. Cardamom comes in three forms: Pods, seeds, and powder. The pods look like orange seeds. Cardamom seed pods may be hard to find, so you may need to order them from a spice specialist like Penzeys.com, but don't leave out the cardamom. Cardamom is the secret ingredient. The seeds within the pods are either black or tan, about 1/3 the size of peppercorns. If you can't find pods and can only find seeds, use about 1 teaspoon of them. Do not use powder.
About the almonds. It is important to get naked cream-colored almonds that have had the shells and brown skins removed. The skins are bitter and full of brown coloring that can give the glögg a dusty texture. Do not use salted or smoked almonds. If you can only find almonds with skins, you can remove them by blanching them. Here's how: Boil a pot of water, dump in the almonds, wait for the water to boil again, let them boil for about a minute, pour off the water, and rinse with cold water, and drain. The skins will slip right off if you pinch them.
About the cloves. Do not use powdered cloves.
Warning. I had a reader once complain that the recipe was way to sweet. This is a sweet drink to begin with, but upon further investigation I learned that he let is steep in a slow cooker for 12 hours. Water and alcohol can evaporate from a slow cooker (notice the grooves under the lid). This is to help keep the top of the meat cool during braising, a subject for another discussion.
1) Crack the cardamom seed pods open by placing a pod on the counter and laying a butter knife on top of it. With the palm of your hand, press on the knife. It will crack it open so the flavors of the seeds can escape. You can leave the seeds in the pods once they are cracked.
2) Pour the red wine and port into a stainless-steel or porcelain kettle. Do not use an aluminum or copper pot since these metals interact with the wine and brandy to impart a metallic taste. Add the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, orange peel, raisins, and almonds. Cover and simmer.
3) Put the sugar in a pan and soak it with half the brandy. Warm over a medium-low flame and stir occasionally until it becomes a clear, golden syrup and all the sugar is dissolved. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes until the tiny bubbles become large burbles. This starts caramelizing of the sugar and adds a layer of flavor.
4) Add the sugar syrup to the spiced wine mix. Cover and let it simmer over a low heat for an hour.
5) Taste. If you wish, add more sugar or brandy. If you do, go easy, 1/4 cup at the most. As my barber says, "I can always cut more off but I can't put it back on". You can always add more brandy, but if you go over the top, you can't get back under.
6) Strain to remove the spices, almonds, and raisins. You can serve your glögg immediately or bottle it in clean used wine or whiskey bottles. A month or two of aging really enhances the flavors and marries them beautifully. A year is even better. If you are going to age glögg for more than a month or two, fill the bottles as high as possible and seal them tight. You don't have to lie them down to age, and if you use used corks, they might leak where the corkscrew entered if you lie them down. A good glögg will throw a thick purple sediment as it ages, but that doesn't become a problem for months. It's just normal settling of particulate matter held in suspension as well as compounds in the wine coming out of solution as they combine with oxygen in the aging process. Just pour gently and don't shake the bottle and discard the sediment when you get to the bottom of the bottle. Tastes like mud.
7) Fringe benefits. Do not discard the raisins and almonds when you are done, they are impregnated with flavor! I put the raisins in a jar in the refrigerator, and my wife bakes them into panettone, an Italian raisin bread (after I snack down a few handsful). I roast the almonds in a 225°F oven for about 90 minutes and munch them as snacks during a football game.
8) Serving. To serve glögg, warm it gently in a saucepan over a low flame or, better still, in a slow cooker. Serve it in a mug and, don't skip this, garnish it with a strip of fresh orange peel, twisted over the mug to release the oils. Drink while seated and give your car keys to a friend.
This page was revised on 2/9/2009