Monday December 21st is the Summer Solstice in Australia. It’s the longest day of the year and the midpoint between Beltane and Lammas. The Summer Solstice is a time of magic and mystery, a time when the veils between the worlds are thin. It is a time to celebrate summer, life and love.
After the solstice, the days start to get shorter but there are still plenty of long, hot days and nights ahead of us.
To cool down during the longest day of the year, you can make a lovely Summer Solstice drink by steeping strawberries and basil in wine. Play around with the proportions to fit your taste. You can also adapt the recipe to make a smaller or larger batch.
This wine can also be served for the Winter Solstice, as red and green are the colours of Yule.
Strawberry and Basil Wine
Ingredients 2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced lengthwise a sprig or two of basil 3 cups white wine 2 cups soda water
Instructions Place the strawberries and basil in a large pitcher or jug. Pour in the wine. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Pour in the soda water just before serving.
When Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi first uttered those immortal words in Tod Browning’s 1931 movie Dracula, he didn’t realise he would be giving birth to one of the most famous lines in vampire folklore. These words never appeared in Bram Stoker’s novel. They were unique to the film which is loosely based on the 1924 stage play by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston. It was this play that introduced us to an urbane, tuxedo wearing Count Dracula, much different to Stoker’s quite repulsive vampire. The romantic, cape wearing Count would become one of the most popular versions of the mercurial vampire in literature and cinema. His popularity does not appearing to be waning.
To celebrate Bela’s upcoming 134th birthday on Thursday October 20, I thought I would drink some wine in his honour 🙂 Sangria, a chilled Spanish red wine drink, is supposedly named after the Spanish word for blood – sangre – which reflects its dark red colour. I have chosen to meld a chilled Spanish sangria with a warm mulled wine. After all, if Dracula did drink wine he most certainly would want it served warm – like blood!
Hot Blooded Sangria
1/2 cup blood orange juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
750ml bottle of red wine
1/3 cup brandy
1 blood orange, cut into pieces
Place the juice and sugar in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Stir until combined.
Add the cloves and cinnamon sticks. Simmer, stirring frequently, for 5 – 10 minutes or until the mixture becomes syrupy.
Add the wine and brandy. Cover and simmer, without boiling, for 5 minutes.
Add the blood orange pieces to a heatproof jug.
Pour wine over the blood orange pieces.
Drink while warm.
Refrigerate any leftover wine and enjoy cold over ice.
Spanish Rioja is traditional but you can use any red wine you like. I used a Vampire Merlot from Transylvania 🙂 You can use any variety of oranges when blood oranges are out of season.
I stepped outside today and finally felt it – Autumn!
The air felt cold and crisp, the sky was covered in dark clouds and rain threatened to spit. I couldn’t wait to go for a walk. As I walked I remembered autumn days from my youth, when walking to school would entail kicking through the fallen leaves blanketing the streets; the trees happily giving up their greenery and shedding their autumnally coloured offerings.
Autumn was always my time. It was a sign I had survived another sweltering hot summer and a promise of colder weather to come. I looked forward to days of rugging up in jackets, scarfs, hats and gloves and putting on thick socks and warm shoes. Nights would be spent rugged up in front of a heater with a book and a hot drink. Today has given me hope that we may actually have an autumn this year.
We’ve just had our Autumn Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere. It is a time when the hours of day and night are equal. For many Pagans it is a time of harvest, of reaping what we have sown. It is a time of reflection, particularly reflecting on what it means to be Pagan.
As I reflect on autumns past, present and future I can’t help but feel that a wise, warm and heady beverage would help these contemplations. And what could be more warm and wise than a herb infused mulled wine 🙂
Sage Mulled Wine
750ml bottle white wine
1/4 cup honey
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh sage
2 sprigs fresh lemon thyme
1/4 cup gin
lemon slices for serving
extra fresh sage sprigs for serving
Add the wine, honey and bay leaf to a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
Add the sage and lemon thyme.
Turn off the heat, cover and allow the wine to steep for 20 minutes.
Remove the lid and gently reheat the wine until it starts to steam.
Remove the bay leaf, sage and thyme.
Turn off the heat and add the gin.
Place a slice of lemon and a sprig of sage in heatproof glasses or mugs.
Ladle the wine evenly between the glasses.
It’s funny how some recipes come about. A while ago I created a dish inspired by the Hades/Persephone myth symbolising Persephone being tricked into eating pomegranate seeds. It involved coating individual pomegranate seeds in melted dark chocolate flavoured with rose water. Once the chocolate coated seeds were set, they were served with sliced fresh lychees and dots of pomegranate molasses. Just by looking at the dish you wouldn’t know that it contained pomegranate seeds until you bit into a chocolate and crunched on the fragrant seed. I called the dish Persephone’s Surprise.
While watching a cooking show recently I saw a fabulous bright green sago pudding flavoured with pandan extract. I loved the vibrant green colour of the dish but my thoughts went straight to Persephone and pomegranates. I wanted to make that dish but colour it red! I could then add pomegranate seeds and hopefully they would be disguised in the pudding by their shape and colour.
I remembered having sago pudding as a child so I researched recipes and thought about ways of making the pudding naturally red. I thought of boiling the sago in pomegranate juice but most of the recipes advised rinsing the sago thoroughly after boiling and I wondered if that would wash away the flavour and the colour. I had a few ideas and as a last resort I was going to use food colouring.
I went to my trusted delicatessen and asked if they had sago. They didn’t have sago but they had tapioca pearls. I looked at the packet and saw that the image of cooked tapioca was red! I asked how to get the tapioca pudding red and they said it was a traditional Brazilian recipe which involved boiling the tapioca in red wine. Some more research and I discovered the trick was to cook the tapioca first, drain it and then briefly boil again in red wine. You then marinate it overnight in the wine before draining and briefly chilling. I added my pomegranate tweaks to create a new surprise for Persephone – a Tapioca Surprise.
1 + 1/2 litre water
1/2 cup tapioca pearls
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
cream for serving
Bring the water to the boil. Add the tapioca pearls. Bring back to the boil while gently stirring the tapioca. Once boiling, cover and remove from heat. Allow to cool for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.
Drain tapioca in a colander and rinse under cold water until clear.
Add the tapioca pearls, wine, pomegranate juice and sugar to a saucepan. Cover and bring to the boil. Once boiling, remove from heat. Stir through the pomegranate seeds.
Allow to cool before placing in a glass or metal bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Drain tapioca and place into a large serving bowl or individual bowls. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Serve with a dollop of cream.