wine

A Taste Of Midsummer Wine

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.

Happy Solstice! 

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.

I Never Drink … Wine

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

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Ingredients
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

Method
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.

A Touch Of Autumn

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

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Ingredients
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

Instructions
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.

Pomegranate Surprises

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.

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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.

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Tapioca Surprise

Ingredients
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

Method
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.

Springing Into Action

Between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox falls Imbolc – the beginning of Spring. While there is debate about when to celebrate the first day of Spring, for many Pagans Imbolc is celebrated in the Southern Hemisphere on the first of August. There are still cold Winter days ahead, but the first signs of Spring are beginning to show. Imbolc is a time of celebrating the growing light and the return of life to Earth.

One of the best things to do to celebrate Spring is spring cleaning. One reason for a spring clean is that places that have long, cold Winters are often shut up during Winter and become stuffy and claustrophobic. This was especially true when heating consisted of coal or wood fires. But the ritual of spring cleaning has been around for a long time. Many cultures have spring cleaning rituals which consist of giving the house a top to bottom cleaning. These rituals are also symbolic of sweeping away built up negative energies and are an opportunity for us to explore our accumulated personal baggage. Spring is a time to throw open the physical and metaphorical windows and shine a light on all our dark, hidden corners!

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In Australia, August is the perfect time to spring clean our backyards in preparation for snake and bushfire season. While we don’t have long, cold winters our homes can still be stuffy so a good clean might be needed. Those of us with flatulent French Bulldogs really appreciate being able to crack open the windows and let in some fresh air! Spring is also a perfect time for de-cluttering. But the most important part of spring cleaning for me is personal introspection and spiritual de-cluttering. Our psyches can certainly benefit from a yearly re-evaluation and spring clean.

For me, Imbolc heralds the return of snakes and Persephone. Both snakes and Persephone are mythologically considered chthonic – that is they spend part of their yearly life underground or in the Underworld. While snakes never completely hibernate in Australia they are less active or visible during winter. As the weather warms snakes slowly awake from their slumber and begin their re-entrance into the upper world. As the weather warms and the season slowly turns from Winter to Spring, Persephone also begins her ascent from the Underworld.

Like snakes and Persephone I like to have a Winter hibernation where I take a break from the world and draw my energies into myself. Sadly I didn’t manage to have a break this year but I still managed some sort of hibernation and introspection. Armed with my trusty Tarot cards I have spent many late evenings in Winter watching the Sun go down and consulting my cards. I am so glad I did this as I recently needed all my personal development skills!

I was reminded of the importance of vigorous personal spring cleaning last weekend. At a family function I was saddened by the behaviour of some relatives who seemed to be re-living and acting out old family patterns – and not very enlightened or positive ones! I was taken back to not so pleasant childhood memories. For a moment I was thrown back into the Underworld and a darkness settled on my soul. Thankfully it didn’t last. But it did remind me that it is time for a spring clean! I think this year is going to be a BIG one!

I approach a spring clean in a systematic way. My approach is quite straightforward although going through each stage can be challenging.

First, I take some time to be away from my day to day activities.

I then take a long hard look at myself and ask the following questions:

  • Do I have any habitual ways of thinking that I don’t want to continue?
  • Have I gone back to any bad habits?
  • When I look at my own thinking and actions do they seem similar to ones that I don’t like in others?
  • Where am I fooling myself – what thoughts do I have that contradict my values?
  • Is there anything else that pops up that I should also clean out?

I then think about how I would like to be and I nurture the behaviours in myself that I like and respect.

At the end of all this “mulling” it seems only fair to relax with a nice mulled wine!

Grenadine Mulled Wine

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Delicious mulled wine with a Persephonian kick of pomegranate.

Ingredients

1 ruby red grapefruit
10 whole cloves
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/2 cup water
2 sticks cinnamon
1/4 cup grenadine
1 bottle of riesling or other white wine

Method

Preheat oven to 180C / 350F.
Stud the grapefruit with the cloves.
Place on a baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the grapefruit is soft.
While the grapefruit is baking place the agave syrup and water in a small saucepan on medium heat. Stir until combined. Add the cinnamon sticks and simmer, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until the mixture becomes syrupy.
When ready, remove the grapefruit from the oven and place in a medium saucepan on low heat. Add the syrup, grenadine and wine. Cover and simmer, without boiling, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove grapefruit and cinnamon sticks.
Ladle into heatproof cups.

Any variety of grapefruit can be used in this recipe.
Grenadine is a syrup made from pomegranates.