I can smell Christmas in the air tonight here at my house in Arlington MA. The scent lingers here even though there isn’t a flake of snow to be found for miles. It is a nice spicy scent that invades my home putting me in mind of Christmas. My husband is making one of the most delicious Christmas traditions of Scandinavia, where he comes from.
My first experience with Glögi, was several years ago now at Christmas time, me and my husband were still newly weds. We went to see his family in Kuvansi, which is in the Varkaus region of Finland, several hours north of Helsinki. Finns, tend to enjoy a quiet Christmas, they enjoy their parties some days before and some days after Christmas itself. They do this to reserve Christmas Eve and Christmas night for family. They spend that time together, decorating the tree dancing around the house in a ring with Santa Clause who comes down from Lap Land all decked out in his traditional white and red suit with a big beard all fat from over consumption of Rudolf and company. Finns eat a large Christmas dinner that includes a mustard and bread crumb covered ham, sometimes (on lucky years) moose meat steaks, sometimes a bit of Reindeer meat, and all manner of casseroles mostly of the vegie variety. A fabulous dinner is had a bit early by all, followed by the visit from Santa, and the unwrapping of all the gifts on Christmas night. The atmosphere is soft pleasant and bright, full of warmth and caring.
Before dinner is served, usually after the traditional declaration of Finnish Peace, a tradition that has been going on for hundreds of years at around noon, the tree comes in from outside and gets decorated. During this nice afternoon time, is when the Glögi gets made and the first round is usually consumed as part of the tree decorating activities. Glögi, comes in two distinct varieties, the kind for adults, made from wine and the sort for children made from the juice of apples and black currants. In both cases it is especially spiced and seasoned to deliciousness. Many adult Finns even prefer the juice version for children as it brings back memories of the old days of dancing with Santa that tend become a thing of the past by the time they have hit their teens. So it is in our house. Later, after dinner and before bed often a second round of Glögi is drunk usually at the table rather than around the tree. It is also drunk all day on Christmas day which is viewed as just a day of relaxation and time with family. Everyone enjoys their small but pleasant gifts. It really isn’t so consumerist as it is here. And often there are movies, and people read books, and aiti (mom) cooks lots of delicious food and there are left overs. It is a momentary break from the cold in one of the harshest wintertime environments on the planet. Though the snow falls out side and it is sometimes as cold as -10 Fahrenheit , and there is darkness all around you except maybe for an hour or so around noon if you are lucky, inside it is warm and pleasant and it smells of Christmas and the spices, wine and juices of Glögi.
For adult version of Glögi, replace about half of all juices with red wine. Or if you want to serve more than four (as that is the max this recipe is good for) you could simply add red wine in addition to your juice until you have the desired amount that will serve the number of guests you are serving. (please be sure in such a case all your guests are of legal drinking age.)
Now the directions for this Scandinavian Christmas Delicacy:
Add spices and water to a pot with sugar (do not add the almonds and the raisins at this time) and boil for about a half hour on the stove. In that time, measure the juices and wine if you are using wine, and allow it to heat up on the stove, boiling is unnecessary. After the spiced water has boiled sufficiently for about a half hour, add it to the hot juice/juice and red wine. Mix it and allow it to sit and heat for a little longer. If you have added alcohol such as red wine make sure it doesn’t boil. If only Juice, it doesn’t really matter if it boils or not. Let it heat together for several minutes then serve in glass cup with a handle that is designed for hot drinks.
Traditionally, in Scandinavia, Glögi is garnished with chopped almonds and raisins which are actually added and mixed into the hot drink. Some Americans are not so cool with this so if that is not good for you try just having a few on the side. Enjoy your Glögi, from my heart and the heart of Scandinavia to yours. The best part of Glögi, is that though a traditional Christmas drink they drink it all through the Christmas season and even into the New Year.
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