Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Snow complications

Do you remember Barry Humphries monologue from the sixties — about going to the snow, with the line “we all shacked up there with stacks of the old gluhwein, a few crates of tinnies, a couple of little snow bunnies and no complications”? That was the first time I had heard about gluhwein. And it was a few years before I actually tried it. I remember that moment well — a freezing winter night in Gundagai, a bunch of geologists in a caravan, and someone brewed up this potent, heady mix. I loved it! I came across it again in the old town square in Prague during a glacial (well, I am from Sydney!) late November, where market stalls were doing a roaring trade in mulled wine and warm rum – sugar concoctions.

And I was delighted to re-acquaint myself with it at the Sydney Winter Festival. A bunch of people hanging out at a temporary skating rink in Cook + Phillip Park outside St Mary’s Cathedral. With winter food and drink, German music, a “ski lodge”, snow makers, etc. And gluhwein. Just right for a cold night, teamed with bratwurst and sauerkraut on a roll, mit Zenf.

The skating was fun to watch. There was a real mix of skills, from great skaters to people hanging, grimly, to the rink edge, their friend, or the witches hats. Note to self: “Don’t ever suggest ice skating or other activities needing physical coordination as a first date”. OK. Some had made a real effort dressing up, with fur muffs, Cossack hats, sparkly stockings, flippy skirts. Others were not quite so classy. But the mix of people, all having fun, reminded me of a lovely day at the beach. But with beanies and scarves. At night. In the snow.

Anyway, enough of the social context. This blog is supposed to be, at least, a bit about cooking. Wikipedia gives a bunch of info on gluhwein across various European countries. The common ingredients appear to be wine, sugar, citrus, and spices. There are also interesting mentions of mulled ale from England and Poland. And so, I turned to a recipe for gluhwein. The one on the Food Safari website looked interesting. Here’s how it turned out.

The orange studded with cloves reminded me of the pomander balls my mother used to make. This is drop-dead easy cooking — bung everything in a saucepan, heat, let it think for a while, strain, drink. But high impact — the flavours are so clean, fresh, rich. You can keep any excess (?) in the fridge to reheat later. On the internet you can find a gazillion different recipes for gluhwein. They range from simple concoctions with simple spicing, to recipes that contain “all the spices of Araby” (Macbeth, Act V, Scene 1).

This recipe was delicious — a warming, spicy, welcoming draught of mid-winter joy. I liked the additional sense of dryness and sourness from the cranberry juice. Make it soon, before the weather starts to warm up! Great for a Saturday night in, with a video, a casserole, and, perhaps, a couple of snow bunnies. Already I am starting to think about January, and gluhwein gelato — a kind of sangria slushy ...

You could overcomplicate this recipe by adding to many spices and extra flavours. But as Barry Humphries recognised, some things are better with “no complications”.


  1. Sangria Slushy... I'm so there!

    I think there is one of those orange clove balls hanging in Grandmas bedroom!

  2. avventura204608 July, 2010 12:04

    enjoyed reading your winter william/college sts adventure, and remember, or not, gluwein making and sipping myself.
    sangria slushy.... brilliant!

  3. i think I will not let another winter go by without making this. I've only ever had it as made by other people and am now keen on making my own. Will get onto it pronto.

    Would you believe I went through a pomander phase a few years ago and have two that decorate my dining table at home. I'm told they still smell.

  4. My mother used to make pomanders, which is what Claire is referring to. I have one of hers that must be 45 years old. It has only the faintest residual smell, but is a lovely thing.

  5. What a wonderful post David. You write so well.

    Love it!