Tag Archives: winter

Feuerzangenbowle and how to make your own Zuckerhut

Feuerzangenbowle in Alaska 2014

Feuerzangenbowle in Alaska 2014

I’ve written about the German winter tradition Feuerzangenbowle (aka “fire tongue punch”) before. In my post last year, I explained (eerily familiar these days when you look at the East Coast):

“Yet another “polar vortex” sweeping the Midwest is giving me a chance to write a post that I thought would have to wait until next winter. I meant to write it before Christmas, but then life got in between. So I relish this chance that Mother Nature has provided me with. Why could I only write this post in utter cold? Because of tradition…but let me begin:

If you type “Feuerzangenbowle” into Google, you will find a gazillion of hits for this term. Other bloggers, like John The Food and Wine Hedonist and Julian of Vino in Love, have written about it before, so I want to keep the intro part rather short. Feuerzangenbowle, usually translated as “Fire Tongue Punch”, is a German winter tradition. Most English-speakers are familiar with “Glühwein” aka mulled wine, and Feuerzangenbowle is an extension of mulled wine.” To be more precise, it’s pimped version of mulled wine.

If current weather conditions make you want to throw a party and impress your guests with a show of fire and light as well as a tasty mulled wine, this is what you need: a burner, mulled wine, sugar loafs or hats (in German: Zuckerhut), some metal rack (to set the sugar onto), minimum 50 proof rum, a metal ladle, and a lighter. The final product will be sugar drenched in rum that is lit up sitting atop a pot of mulled wine. It makes for quite the spectacle.

First up, you need some form of hardened sugar. In Germany, we use a Zuckerhut, a cone shaped loaf of sugar that fits perfectly on the tongues that are used to hold it above the mulled wine. It’s hard or expensive to get them in Germany, and I have experimented a lot with how to replace it. We’re throwing at least one Feuerzangenbowle party in Alaska each year, and usually one in Ann Arbor as well (like this past weekend). Initially, I played with adding a bunch of water to sugar and then putting it into the oven at a rather low temperature. The problem with that is that it can caramelize the sugar and then it burns down much harder (as happened to me this year in Alaska, where the sugar was so hard that the flames turned into a greenish color – pretty, but not what you want).

When I told Nina my dilemma, she did a Google search and found the perfect solution: a Youtube video. Not that I couldn’t have thought of that. The three minute video shows how easy it is to make your own sugar cones. Mix a cup of sugar with a teaspoon of water. Mix well with a fork, the sugar will resemble damp sand. Then take a champagne or beer flute or martini glass, put in a third of the sugar, use a muddler to press the sugar firmly, criss-cross the top of the sugar with the fork to loosen it a bit and ensure the next round will stick to this round, add another third of sugar, repeat and repeat again. Then flip the glass on parchment paper, tap the glass, and let it sit over night. It worked perfectly! I was very happy with the consistency of this cone, just right.

For the mulled wine, combine a box of Franzia Zinfandel (or any other cheap wine of choice) with 8 sticks of cinnamon, three oranges and three lemons cut in wheels, and some vanilla aroma. Heat up, but don’t let it boil (it will ruin the flavor).

When everything is ready, put the wine pot on a burner, set up the rack on top of the pot, put a cone or two on the rack (I use two cones of a cup of sugar each per wine box of 5 liters). Dim the lights in the room. Pour rum over the cones to drench them. Pour rum in the ladle and light it up. Pour the burning rum over the cones. You might need to light up the cones separately to get them started. Once they are burning, add more rum as you see fit. The sugar will drip into the mulled wine, there will be small fires of rum and sugar sitting on top of the mulled wine, giving the orange and lemon wheels a nice burn. Once the sugar is burned down after a couple of minutes, remove the rack, and start serving the mulled wine.

The mix is potent, so watch out. But it’s also SO good. Here’s to getting through the winter in style!

Feuerzangenbowle (as captured by The Food and Wine Hedonist)

Feuerzangenbowle (as captured by The Food and Wine Hedonist)

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Woodchuck Farmhouse Select Hard Cider Original ’91

Woodchuck Farmhouse Selection Hard Cider Original '91

Woodchuck Farmhouse Selection Hard Cider Original ’91

I wasn’t going to write a post about this cider, but then again, it was really tasty so I decided to go ahead. As some of you may remember, I have a weak spot for cider (not for $20 a bottle ciders, but that is another story) and have written about some in the past. While I initially drank it in summer as a refreshing beer alternative that actually had flavors I appreciate, I have been discovering more and more ciders that are well suited for winter time as well.

I found this Woodchuck Farmhouse Select Original ’91 at Costco, where our Ann Arbor store had set up a craft beer section in late 2013. While it mainly consisted of Belgian and American craft beers, it also had this cider which I decided to grab while I stacked the cart with beers for Nina.

Woodchuck is a familiar name, being one of the big cider producers from Vermont. With this “Farmhouse Select” line, apparently they want to go more craftsy, hence also their placement with the craft beers. The ’91 is alluding to the year Woodchuck started in a small garage in Vermont. Woodchuck claims they were trying to recreate the early flavors with this cider. Not sure whether that worked out, but I do have to say I found the Original 91 pretty tasty. It has 6.9% ABV and comes in a 1 pint 2 fl.oz. bottle (that’s 750 ml for my rest of the world readers).

It poured in a golden color and the first noticeable trait was its reduced carbonation. There was barely any, which I found great. Flavors of tart apple paired with honey and some wood combined to a tasty experience. It did have the feeling of a craft cider, although I doubt this would actually fit the definition coming from a big cider mill. Still, totally worth experiencing and not hitting your bank account like some of those craft ciders going for over $20 a bottle. This was $8.99, I think. I’d drink this again any time.

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Woodchuck Hard Cider Winter

Woodchuck Hard Cider - Winter Edition

Woodchuck Hard Cider – Winter Edition

I’m swamped with work this week, so this has to be a short one (again). It is St. Nikolaus Day today and in Germany that means that kids receive gifts. Somehow, in my head, I have moved it to the day before St. Nikolaus…and lo and behold, he did stop by last night and left gifts.

One of them was this cider manufactured by Woodchuck, a big cider producer in the U.S. located in Vermont. You can check out their website here. Nina first served me Woodchuck ciders when I visited her in Philly in 2008 as we were reminiscing drinking Savanna Dry (I wrote about that cider here). Ever since, I have been drinking Woodchuck on an off, usually at parties.

The Winter cider is s seasonal release. Nina tried it first today and was quite intrigued. It tastes slightly oaky at first, but then you’re definitely hit by some vanilla notes and a refreshing acidity. It’s crisp and fresh and interesting, and actually quite yummy. (The back label lists oak and vanilla, and rarely ever have I found a cider description so spot on). The nicest thing about this cider is that it seems to have some welcome depth and sophistication, that I did enjoy a lot.

That said, it also upset my stomach a bit. Not sure whether that is because I hardly ate anything today or because of the cider…just warning you guys. Taste wise, it’s definitely a treat.

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