Try these seasonal beverages during the winter months | Chef Dez

By Chef Dez | Nov 18, 2013

The upcoming holiday season is a very special time of year that is celebrated not only with food, but with favorite drinks as well.

Family and friends come together to eat, drink and commemorate the precious relationships that they hold with each other. Throughout the years, there have been many beverages made to help capture the essence of the season and these gatherings.

Eggnog is probably the first seasonal beverage that comes to mind. Eggnog is a drink that seems to have originated in Britain from a drink called posset.

This was a mixture of eggs, milk and ale, sherry or brandy. Posset was served in small, carved wooden mugs called "noggins," and thus the name "eggnog" was created.

In North America, the recipe was altered with rum as the replacement for the ale, sherry or brandy.

In today's world, eggnog is not necessarily served with alcohol and is a favorite for many of all ages. There are numerous recipes available to make eggnog from scratch, but most just buy it pre-made in a carton.

The varieties available to us at our local grocery stores also include a light version that is lower in fat, and at some locations, a no-fat variety.

It is mostly served chilled either with or without ice, but I prefer to serve it hot, individually, like steamed milk, and garnished with a sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg.

If you aren't likely to make your eggnog from a recipe, at least buy whole nutmeg versus pre-ground, and try grating it fresh onto the eggnog before serving. The flavor difference is incredible.

Hot apple cider and mulled wines are other wintertime favorites. Mulled wines are documented to have been in existence from as early as 400 A.D. in European areas, and thus have quite the history.

These creations are made by heating either cider or red wine with a combination of favorite spices to infuse flavor.

There is an endless combination of spices that one can use, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, star anise and many other warm complimenting flavors.

Sugar is not usually added to hot apple ciders, as the base cider used in the recipe already provides an abundance of natural sweetness from the apples.

Mulled wines require a bit of sugar to compliment the feeling of consuming a warm festive drink, while also offsetting some of the acidity in the wine.

Mulled wines that are heated for a long period of time are less likely to contain as much residual alcohol. Many prefer to have most of the alcohol still left in the finished product and, thus, cook it briefly.

Whichever way you choose to serve and consume this wonderful seasonal favorite, just remember not to boil the wine. Boiling the wine will rapidly increase the amount of evaporation and risk the chance of the mulled wine being too strong tasting in the end.

A Swedish and Finnish version of mulled wine is called glogg. It is much sweeter and always has high alcohol content. The final touch to glogg is the addition of a few almonds and raisins to each glass being served.

Always remember that seasonal beverages do not have to contain alcohol to be enjoyable. A heated cranberry juice or grape juice, for example, with the same warming spices can be made to replace mulled wine.

Furthermore, there are so many choices of fantastic herbal teas and syrups for coffees that capture the essence of the season beautifully.

Whatever beverage you choose to help celebrate during the holidays, please drink responsibly.

Dear Chef Dez,

I have a recipe for mulled wine that says it should be simmered. Isn't simmering actually a slow boil? I heard you weren't supposed to boil mulled wine - is this correct?

-Erik W.

Abbotsford, BC

Dear Erik,

The culinary definition of simmering is "to cook in water or other liquid that is bubbling gently.” Although, this is not the same as a "slow boil," I still would not have my mulled wine heated to this degree.

Instead, I prefer just to warm it thoroughly for about 30-45 minutes to the maximum point of having wisps of steam rising from the surface.

This time frame will also allow extraction of great flavor from the whole spices added.

Chef Dez is a food columnist, culinary instructor and cooking show performer. Visit him at www.chefdez.com. Send your food/cooking questions to dez@chefdez.com or P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, BC V2T 6R4.

 

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