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Dancing Tomatoes

Celebrate Like the French During the Holidays

Vin Chaud – Hot Spiced Wine

Sipping vin chaud is so romantic and so evocative of bustling, European street corners during winter.  Whether you are at the Christmas market of Strasbourg or Paris, in a cozy chalet in the Alpes after a day on the slopes, or in your living room near the Christmas tree, vin chaud fills the air with its spice and warmth.

The Romans or the Greeks?

We have the hearty Greeks or perhaps the clever Romans to thank for vin chaud (history gives credit to both, but we do know that the Romans tended to copy…), for they all were convinced that adding spices and honey to wine, then heating and sipping it helped their digestion by gently warming them from the inside out.  It also, we are led to believe, lent a warm glow to their festivities. 

So-So Wine to Delicious Wine

During the Middle Ages in France when spices like cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg were the cornerstones of commerce, and grape vines planted by the Romans were flooding the marketplace with wine (that needed a bit of help in both flavor and sweetness), vin chaud became the drink of winter, continuing to spread warmth and good cheer.  Adding spices to wine was also a sign of wealth, and those who had and used them were the powerful.  Then, vin chaud was called “hypocras” and was much sweeter and spicier than what we drink today, but surely no less comforting nor evocative of celebration.

The vin chaud tradition doesn’t belong solely to the French of course, for the Romans were everywhere on the European continent.  There isn’t just one recipe either, for it adapts geographically, incorporating traditional, regional ingredients.  Northern European countries, for example, have their own vin chaud traditions.  In Sweden and Norway vin chaud is called glögg, and it includes aquavit, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves, raisins and almonds.   Versions in Finland use spices to heighten the tart, fruity flavor of cranberry juice, or a blend of apple and black currant juices.   The English have mulled wine which calls for, among other things, common garden herbs like bay leaves and rosemary.

Holiday Symbol

Vin chaud is more than a holiday drink, though it is also a symbol of the holidays.  But more than that, it rings in the chill of winter when we all want to be warm, cozy, perhaps a little fuzzy as we settle around the fire with those we love.  Here at Dancing Tomatoes, we like our vin chaud lightly spiced and lightly sweet and we enjoy it with assorted holiday cookies in what is, to us, a perfect marriage of cultures.

So, make your vin chaud according to your tastes, and serve Fiona’s favorite thumbprint cookie alongside!

Thumbprint Cookies

If you don't want to use your thumb, use the end of the handle of a wooden spoon. Good luck!
Cook Time20 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: brown sugar, butter, flour, pecans, red currant jelly
Servings: 2 dozen

Ingredients

  • 1-1/4 cups;180g all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 8 tablespoons;120g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup;100g brown vanilla sugar
  • 1 large large egg
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • The white from 1 large egg
  • 1 scant cup;140g pecans ground
  • 1/3 cup;75ml red currant jelly

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Sift the flour and salt onto a piece of parchment paper. Whisk the egg white in a medium-sized bowl.
  • Place the butter and the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix until pale yellow and light, about 3 minutes. Add the whole egg and mix well then mix in the vanilla until thoroughly combined. Quickly add the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined.
  • Using 1 tablespoon of dough, form a ball and place it in the whisked egg white. Roll it in the egg white until it is completely covered, then transfer it to the ground nuts. Roll it in the nuts until it is covered, then transfer it to the prepared baking sheet. Continue with the remaining dough, working with several balls of dough at a time then placing the cookies about ½-inch (1.25cm) apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and, using your thumb or the end of a wooden spoon, make indentations in each cookie. Return to the oven and bake the cookies until they are deep golden, 12 to 15 more minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  • While the cookies are baking, melt the currant jelly over low heat, and keep it warm.
  • When the cookies are nearly cooled, drop enough jelly into each indentation to just fill it. Let the cookies cool completely, and store them in a single layer in an air-tight container. They will keep for about one week. They freeze beautifully.

Vin Chaud a la Dancing Tomatoes

This is my recipe for vin chaud, which I love because it is gently sweetened with honey, enlivened with spices, and sparkled with citrus.
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: French
Keyword: cardamom, clementine, cloves, lemon, red wine, star anise

Ingredients

  • 1 bottle red wine from the Languedoc or the Côtes du Rhône
  • 2 tablespoons wildflower or other mild honey
  • 2 star anise
  • 5 pods cardamom, crushed
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 10 black peppercorns, preferably Tellicherry
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 clementine,preferably organic, cut in quarters, then in thin slices
  • 1/2 lemon, preferably organic, cut in quarters, then in thin slices
  • 1/2 orange, preferably organic, cut in quarters, then in thin slices
  • 1/3 cup; 50g almonds, thinly sliced

Instructions

  • 1. Pour the wine into a medium-sized saucepan.
  • 2. Add the remaining ingredients, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Continue heating until the aroma of the wine and the spices fills the kitchen and the wine is steaming, which will take 10 to 15 minutes. Do not let the mixture boil.
  • 3. Divide the almonds among 8 glasses or small mugs . Pour equal amounts of the wine into the glasses. Place several pieces of citrus in each glass or mug, and serve immediately.

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