Keeping Warm

It’s the upper midwest, we have winter. Sometimes we have serious winter where the snow and the northern lights play. No, we don’t live in the northern reaches of Canada but if you went straight north…winter exists there too. Five years ago, we moved southeast and only one mile from a great lake (Michigan). I remember learning about climate in school, but in California snow happened in the mountains. When my family moved here to the midwest, questions of “do you put chains on your tires to go driving in the snow?” “Aren’t you cold, are you staying warm?” Well, those were from my California family who were clueless and still, no matter how long we’ve been here (nearly 30 years), the questions of warmth and life continue! Tire chains were for when we skiied in the Sierras, and yeah! I get cold, but you figure out how to get warm and there is that heater thing! Weather is a factor when you live by a large body of water-which is why earlier in February we had a couple of feet of snow on the ground and the snow kept coming. Moving about 260 miles southeast also put us in a 5b growing zone instead of the 3-4 zone we were in before. Warmer yes, but lake effect weather. It also means spring comes a bit on the later side and the ground stays colder just a bit longer. Again, patience and adjustment and warmth, which is what this piece is about…

Now, we do have quilts on the beds and couches=cozy warm but we don’t have a wood burning fireplace (boo hoo) but again, quilts. This year, I did get the recipe for mulled wine just right and let me tell you, it’s a lovely during-after-whenever-beverage spiced enough for the winter season. Me? I call it Winter Sangria!

We use wine that is good for drinking, but as I’m not a red wine fan..too dry, too sharp, too something but it is too perfect for this concoction, so we don’t use fancy stuff. It gets poured into a (depending on how big the quantity of wine is) pot and then the magic is added. The following is not an all exclusive list but just what I-do-and-what-I-have-list:

Orange slices, star anise, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, nutmeg (grated), whole allspice and whole cardamom seed and honey. Warming winter spices and smells.

I let it come to a serious simmer, tasting all the while because the amount of honey to be added depends on how sweet you want it, or how you like it each time you taste it. It ends up being 1/4-1/2 cup or more. (It really is subjective) And yes, small tastings to see how it is progressing. Then after you think it’s been heated thoroughly enough and the oranges look drunk enough, turn off the heat and leave it to sit and cool. You want to taste it again, just to make sure it tastes just right-you can always heat it up more. I let it cool thoroughly before filtering it back into the bottle and corking it again. I admit to using more utensils because they work to make less mess and since I’m the chief chef and bottle washer…!

There is a loss of liquid what with the spices soaking things up, evaporation and tasting, but when I measured yesterday’s batch it’s about 500ml back in. We’ve made larger quantities of this for winter parties in the slow cooker/crock pot, it takes a while but oh boy! The house smells lovely, seasonal and there’s a warm feeling. And this dear people is how we stay happy and warm this winter!

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