beverages, dining at downton, edwardians, escoffier, fruit, holidays, winter

Dining at Downton: Mulled wine

It’s getting to be that time when I start glancing at the calendar to see how many days are left. Not before Christmas (though that’s another kind of concern) but before the premiere.

Yes, you know. The U.S. premiere of Downton Abbey Season Three.

January 6! That’s less than a month away!

Josh and my sister and I can barely contain our excitement. I will probably need to review the first two seasons before that fated day in order for the story to be completely fresh in my mind. This kind of viewing–leisurely, paced, because I already know what happens–calls for something special to spice it up.

I’m talking mulled wine.

This recipe is particularly appropriate for the Downton Christmas special. I can imagine the Crowleys sipping mugs of spiced, mulled wine by the fire while they discuss the punch-up between Matthew and Sir Richard. Perhaps Mary and Matthew warmed themselves up with a tipple after their mutual declarations of love. It’s the perfect thing for a cold, blustery evening, even if your winter’s night features only British TV dramas and central heating. (I really do appreciate the modern comforts of home.)

I recently brewed a batch of mulled wine for a holiday party, pulling inspiration from Escoffier: Le Guide Culinaire (a cookbook Mrs. Patmore probably used) as well as from the latest issue of Bon Appetit. The Escoffier recipe is fairly mild, calling for only “zest of 1 lemon, a small piece of cinnamon and mace and 1 clove.” I suppose a light hand with the spice makes sense, given the famed Victorian aversion to flavor. Since modern tastes are more adventurous, I added a few more cloves, some tangerines, and orange peel to boot. The result, I think, was well worth the tampering.

Mulled Wine
(adapted heavily from Escoffier: Le Guide Culinaire and Bon Appetit)

2 750-ml bottles of red wine (it doesn’t have to be fancy)
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups apple cider
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tangerines
16 – 20 whole cloves
1 tsp dried orange peel
pomegranate seeds for garnish

Pour the red wine over the sugar in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cider.

While the liquid heats, prepare the tangerines. Press the cloves (by the sharp end) into the tangerines, using about half the cloves for each tangerine. This way you don’t have to strain out the cloves later on.

Place the tangerines, cinnamon sticks, and orange peel in the wine mixture. Heat until steaming, then cover and turn the heat down to low. Serve after twenty minutes, garnishing with pomegranate seeds (if using), and keep warm for second (or third!) servings.

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