Thursday, December 22, 2011

Nordic Yuletide Tradition(s)

In the Scandinavian and Nordic countries, Glögg (also known as Gløgg or Glöggi ) is a Christmas Eve tradition. Glögg is mulled wine usually spiked with vodka, aquavit or brandy (or a combination). It is not only warming and delicious, but also it fills your home with a wonderful Christmassy aroma.

Recipes vary slightly from country to country and family to family and are usually passed down from generation to generation. ( image is of iittala Finnish glassware from: visit the website for an additional recipe)

Below is my family recipe for Finnish Glöggi, as it is called in Finland, and some favorite variations from a Swedish and a Danish friend, as well as a non-alcoholic version suitable for everyone. Glöggi can make the coldest and darkest days of winter feel like a celebration.

Be creative and try your own variation! If you have a favorite Glögg recipe please share it in comments or email me and I will add it.

Delicious Non-alcoholic Variation:

Simply substitute the wine and other alcoholic liquids in the recipes below with a mixture of cherry, apple, grape juice and/or currant juice. I also think Karkade (Egyptian Hibiscus tea) would be tasty. The whole family will enjoy it!

Simple but Good Traditional Finnish Glöggi:

This recipe can be made quickly with out much fuss. It takes about ½ hour.

Handful of corrugated (without the pod) cardamom seeds, if you only have pods, use them, but first crack them a bit and remove the pods before serving.

5-8 cloves (cloves can be very powerful, so do not over do it)

2-3 cinnamon sticks

½ cup raisins

½ cup blanched almond slivers

1.5 liter bottle of red wine (nothing too sweet, a burgundy is fine)

1/2 cup Madeira or port

1/2 liter of vodka (optional)

In a large pot add about ½ cup of wine and spices and raisins and almonds and let simmer 15 minutes covered. Add the rest of the wine, Madeira, and Finlandia Vodka (optional)

Simmer 15-20 minutes, do not allow to boil

Ladle into cups or glasses (heat tolerant). Can be kept simmering on only gets better!

If you do not add the vodka, offer to top off each cup of Glöggi with a ½ shot of Finlandia Vodka for a stronger drink. Kippis (Cheers)!

Flaming Glögg:

This recipe is a festive and fun way to brighten up a winter night! Takes about 1 hour to make. Only ignites if hard liquor is used.

2 cups currant or blueberry juice (or a mix or juice of choice)

8 whole cardamom pods, cracked

5 whole cloves

1/2 inch peeled fresh ginger chopped into pieces

2-3 cinnamon sticks

1/4 cup slivered almonds

3/4 cup raisins

Orange peel

1 (750 ml) bottle Madeira or port

1 cup brandy

1 cup vodka or aquavit(aquavit adds a nice caraway flavor)

Add juice, cardamom, cloves, ginger, cinnamon sticks, almonds, and raisins and orange peel in a large pot. Simmer covered for 30 minutes. Strain and discard spices and fruit. Add the port. Simmer, but do not boil. Add the brandy and vodka/aquavit and heat until warm. Important: do not to boil off the alcohol otherwise it will not light.

Now the excitement begins! Very carefully ignite by throwing a lit match into the mixture (make sure there are no curtains or anything flammable in the fire’s reach). Then cover the pot with a lid to extinguish the flame and serve immediately (remove match first).

Sweet and Fruity Gløgg

This version requires a bit more planning, but well worth the effort; it must stand over night, or longer.

2 liter bottles red table wine

9-12 corrugated cardamom seeds

5-8 cloves

3-4 cinnamon sticks

1 cup blanched almond slivers

1 cup raisins

6 prunes or figs (cut into smaller pieces)

1/2 cup candied orange peel (cut into smaller pieces)

1/2 cup crystallized ginger (cut into smaller pieces)

2 cups fresh orange juice

2 cups pineapple or apple juice

2 cups brandy or cognac

1 liter bottle port

1. 5 cups sweet vermouth

Put about 1 cup of wine in a large pot, add cardamom, cloves, cinnamon sticks, almonds, raisins, prunes or figs, candied oranges, and crystallized ginger. Add more wine if needed to cover fruit. Bring mixture to a boil for just a few minutes and turn heat off and allow to cool. Cover once cooled and let stand at room temperature overnight or up to 48 hours to mingle flavors.

On Christmas Eve or when serving, combine the mixture with juices, brandy, the remainder of the wine, port, and sweet vermouth in a large pot. Cover and bring to a simmer for 1-2 hours, but do not boil. Garnish with fresh orange slices.

For some great Scandinavian-style Winter Solstice and New Year's Eve recipe ideas visit:

Another Nordic Christmas Eve tradition is a cleansing sauna bath followed by an invigorating swim in a hole in the ice! After a refreshing icy plunge Glöggi is especially tasty.

Happy Yuletide greetings! Hauskaa Joulua! God Jul!


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