There’s nothing quite like the magic of a German Christmas Market. At night. In the cold and snow. With a cup of steaming gluhwein.
I tried the Christmas Market in Vancouver, Canada and while it was delightful, it wasn’t the same as my experiences in Weisbaden and Cologne, Germany where the tradition of Christkindlemarkts go back to the Late Middle Ages. Originally a place for villagers to meet and craftsmen and farmers to sell goods, today’s outdoor German Christmas Markets still serve their original function. There’s been an update with the addition of electricity – twinkling lights.
And rides. While there are still the charming traditional carved wooden Christmas toys and sweets in many of the stalls, there are also modern updates of machine made handicrafts and Christmas carols piped through loudspeakers when the choirs aren’t singing.
Every Christmas Market serves Gluhwein, a traditional Christmas mulled wine served in a special ceramic cup intended to warm your hands and insides on cold December nights while strolling the Market.
Gluhwein, which literally translated means “glowing wine”, is thought to have originated as a solution for red wine that was going bad. Adding honey and spices and cooking them in the wine with hot irons made it drinkable. Today it’s sold mit Schuss (with a shot) of brandy or another liquor for an extra dose of warmth.
Snow is predicted for my area again this week – a perfect time to pull out my gluhwein mugs, stock up on brandy and spices and make my favorite recipe (mit Schuss of course):
- 2 medium lemons
- 2 medium oranges
- 10 whole cloves
- 5 cardamom pods
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
- 2 (750-milliliter) bottles dry red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Beaujolais Nouveau
- 1/2 cup brandy
- Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the lemons and oranges in wide strips, avoiding the white pith; place the zest in a large saucepan. Juice the lemons and oranges and add the juice to the pan. Place the cloves and cardamom in a small piece of cheesecloth, tie it tightly with butcher’s twine, and add the bundle to the saucepan.
- Add the sugar, water, and cinnamon sticks, place the pan over high heat, and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is reduced by about one-third, about 20 minutes.
- Add the red wine and brandy, stir to combine, and bring just to a simmer (don’t let it boil). Remove from the heat and remove and discard the spice bundle before serving.