Thursday, December 27, 2012

Jul Glögg--A Quick Lesson.

Jul without glögg is unthinkable.  For those unfortunates who know nothing of glögg I will share my mother-in-law Siv's recipe for making this tasty winter warmer.  As with Moth Boats, glögg making is subject to the whims of the maker and so readers are cautioned that although the basic framework of glögg is the same from one glöggmaster to the next, the finished product tends to reflect the personal tastes of its maker.

The Cast of Players:  (This recipe makes a 4 liter batch.  Not enough?  You can scale it up.)

1 liter of Vodka
3 liters of red wine, preferably a hearty red burgundy
Rum to taste ~perhaps a cup full
15 to 20 whole cardamom pods (remove the seeds from the pods--use the seeds)
10 to 12 whole cloves
4 to 5 cinnamon sticks
2 small pieces of dried ginger (you may have to go to an organic market or "health food" store for this ingredient)
1 good handful of raisins
The zest of one Clementine or small orange
~ 1 cup of sugar cubes (more about this later)

The First Reaction:

Mix the Vodka, wine, rum, spices, orange zest and raisins in a suitable pot; heat just to the simmering point and then remove from the heat.  Allow the hot alcohol to extract the goodness from the spices for at least an hour or two, but preferably overnight, as the alcohol slowly cools to room temperature.

A word about the liquid ingredients:

Glögg does NOT require top drawer Vodka, Rum or wine.  This is a situation where knowledgeable glöggmasters use reliable "bargain" brands and "lesser" vintages.  The Vodka and Rum I use are the low priced ones which come in plastic bottles ("Ruble" and "Castillo" spiced, respectively).  Likewise, the wine is nothing too distinguished (I've used Italian Swiss Colony red burgundy in the past; this year Livingston brand burgundy was on sale at my local bottle shop).

The Second Reaction:

This step requires the glöggmaster to pour the flaming batch of glögg over a metal strainer containing sugar cubes.  The batch MUST be reheated to the simmering point and then lit off before straining over the sugar cubes.  It is the burning (and attendant caramelization) of the sugar that gives the finished glögg its wonderful "smokey" flavour.

A word about the amount of sugar:

Glöggmasters should avoid the temptation of using too much sugar.  Too much sugar makes a drink that only your great aunt Tilly will be able to swallow.  Siv's original recipe calls for a pound of sugar cubes but diaristwoman and I have reduced that to between 3/4 of a cup to about 1 full cup of sugar cubes.  I don't know what that translates into weight.  Be aware that sugar cubes come in at least two sizes: 4 grams/cube and 2.5 grams/cube.  My 3/4 cup (diaristwoman's full cup) assumes the larger 4 gram cubes.

A word about the burning process:

Lighting off and pouring the burning batch through the metal strainer, positioned over a second suitable sized metal pot, is HAZARDOUS!  Place the pot with the strainer of sugar cubes in the kitchen sink and have good pot holders to protect your hands and arms.  Take care not to set the kitchen curtains on fire and don't burn the house down.  As soon as the batch has gone through the strainer extinguish the flames with a pot lid--continued burning is wasteful of alcohol.  The spices and raisins retained by the strainer should be put in a plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator.  They are good for a couple of batches.  After the burn I add back some more spiced Rum, to taste, to make up for the alcohol lost during the burning step.


Put raisins and slivered almonds in small glögg cups.  Pour glögg, warmed over the stove or in a microwave to drinking temperature, over the raisins and nuts.  Place a small spoon in each cup to get at the raisins and nuts.  Swedish gingersnaps pairs well with glögg.  Good Luck, and Good Glögg!  What follows is a pictorial account of this year's glögg making at Diarist HQ.

The newly mixed batch heating on the stove during the first reaction.  Smells wonderful!

The next day.  While the batch is heating for the second time I've measured out 3/4 of a cup of sugar cubes.  After tasting batch Nr 1, diaristwoman said it needed just a touch more sugar.  She was right.  I thought it needed a little more rum.  I was right too.  The second batch got about 1 cup of cubes and "some" more rum.

These pot holders have been to several glögg wars.

Time to light off the batch.

Pouring the batch over the sugar cubes.  Note the flames under the strainer.  Be prepared for a bit of flare-up around your knuckles as you are pouring.  If in doubt go back and take a second look at the pot holders photo.

As the flaming batch goes through the strainer, the cubes get smaller and plump raisins and spice bits accumulate.

Keep pouring.  When finished straining, put out the fire ASAP.  Add back rum to satisfaction.

After things cool a bit, move the finished glögg to the empty wine bottle.

Ave Maria, the new batch of glögg is here!
We took some glögg over to diaristwoman's mother.

Glögg requires slivered almonds and raisins in each cup.  Pepparkakor (gingersnaps) and Lussekatter (saffron buns) are appropriate accompaniments.

Raisins are carefully transferred to the cups.

As are the nuts.

Warm glögg follows.  Allow the raisins to soften in the glögg.  Stir them with your spoon.

The critical taste test.  Will my best efforts pass this demanding judge and stickler for tradition?

I'll take mother-in-law's response as a "yes".  Jul is saved!

So, there it is then.  Glögg demystified.  God Jul and Good Glögg!  Pardon me while I go have some!


  1. :-)

    In general, I have discontinued drinking liquor. I could make an exception. I even passed my stemmed shot glasses (akvavit glasses) on to my nephew. I will forward this link to him.

    1. Glad to have been of service. Good Glögg is worth making an exception for. Can't imagine a cold winter without some. If you're nice to him maybe that nephew will have you over for a cup or two! We had Linne akavit for Jul Afton. Mother-in-law brought some back the last time she went home. But just today I saw some at my local bottle shop--at first I couldn't believe my eyes!

  2. Bra jobbat George, den glöggen verkar det vara krut i.
    Häsn. Johannes

  3. Dang! I might have to trade up from my usual Yule bevvie (don't ask. you already know).

  4. Amy, I can say with great confidence that Glögg, made the old fashion way, will definitely take the edge off a frigid St. Pete night--both the one in FLA and the old country! And just think: you'll have yet another hazardous art form to practice in addition to making soap.