Category Archives: Scandinavian

glögg-on-fire and other tales

While we’re on the subject of cardamom, we should probably think about how we can consume it in conjunction with the consumption of alcohol. To that end, I’ve been perusing the internet for the perfect glögg recipe. Glögg is a hot spiced beverage often made in Scandinavian countries during the winter months. Like many traditional foods and activities, it seems that every person with a presence on the internet has page devoted to glögg made from his or her own family recipe and strong feelings as to what constitutes “real” glögg. Some people swear by the addition of cloves. Some feel sure that the perfect glögg means you must strain out the raisins and almonds. Some people feel you should never have added the raisins and almonds to begin with. Some people even set their glögg on fire.

We’re going to ignore all those people with their opinions in favor of the opinion of a real-live Swede that I actually know who lives in Gothenburg, Sweden, and who used to work with me in Tucson and that’s how I know her. Her name is Karin. In response to my plea for a good authentic glögg recipe, Karin selflessly waded through the internet and translated for us a “pretty standard and easy to make” recipe for Classic Glögg as well as one for something called Hearty Special Glögg “which looks to me like some type of science experiment”. (The quotes are Karin’s official Swedish assessment of each recipe, so be sure to read them in a Swedish accent and heed them.)

Something else to keep in mind when you make your glögg: According to Karin, in Sweden, folks like to nibble on gingersnap cookies and blue cheese while consuming glögg. I know some of you Americans (and at least one Guatemalan) are cringing right now, but I’m pretty sure when they usher me into heaven, the first thing they’ll do is take my coat, and the second thing they’ll do is hand me a glass of hot spiced wine and a plate of blue cheese and gingersnaps.

I’ve posted these two recipes below exactly as Karin sent them to me except that I’ve converted the measurements to standard American ones to prevent hiliarious misunderstandings about how much vodka, say, to include. So the funny asides in the recipes are all Karin. And any mistakes of conversion are all me. The conversions are a little rough, but I assumed most of you don’t want to have to mess with adding 0.634 cups of sugar to your Hearty Special Glögg so I took the initiative and rounded down. Merry Christmas.

In addition to the two recipes discussed above, Karin made mention of another glögg which I’m intrigued by. I don’t yet have the recipe, but will post it when I get it. Everyone in Gothenburg, along with their brother and their dog (I’m extrapolating from something Karin said), makes this special glögg around the holidays that involves potatoes, raisins, something called svagdricka which is apparently similar to root beer, and “other things”. I’m assuming some kind of fish. All this stuff “sits around in a bucket and bubbles for six weeks” before turning into something drinkable. This is the one Karin makes and this is the one I’d love to try making, assuming I can get my hands on any svagdricka or something similar enough to do the trick.

Classic Glögg
0,75 l (3 1/4 cups) red wine
2 cinnamon sticks
8 cloves
12 cardamom seeds
5 tsp sugar
1,5 dl (1/3 cup) vodka

Heat the wine and spices on low heat, stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the vodka. Heat until almost boiling. Strain the liquid. Serve with the almonds and raisins.

Glogg on fire!:
Hearty Special Glögg
0.75 l (3 1/4 cups) vodka
1.5 dl (5 oz) cognac/brandy
3.3 dl (1 1/3 cups) beer [3.3. That’s what it said!]
2 figs
3 prunes
1.5 dl (5 oz) raisins
1.5 dl (5 oz) almonds
1 dried bitter orange peel [I’m not sure what to substitute if you can’t find this, but I guess dried regular orange peel would work fine]
8 cm (1 whole) cinnamon stick
4 cardamom seeds
1 clove
1.5 dl (1/2 cup + 1/8 cup) sugar

Put the figs, prunes, raisins, bitter orange peel, cinnamon, cardamom, clove and almonds in a pot with the beer and boil until the beer is almost absorbed/evaporated. The pot needs to have a tight fitting lid.
Add the vodka and 1 – 1,5 dl sugar and let it heat through [the recipe says to ABSOLUTELY NOT let it boil. I’m guessing this is because you don’t want to lose the alcohol. It’s a very assertive recipe.].
Pour a couple of spoons of sugar in a pan over medium-high heat and let it caramelize [here the recipe says to NOT let it burn. Seems reasonable].
Pour the caramelized sugar and the cognac/brandy into the other mixture. Light a match, lift the lid and “burn” the glögg for a few seconds

. Put the fire out by putting the lid back on.
The mixture should steep overnight. Strain the liquid, warm it, and serve with the raisins and almonds.

Postscript One of the things that always intrigues me about these traditional sorts of foods that people make is how they came to be. Did someone accidentally leave a bucket of potatoes out and spill some spices in while baking cardamom bread? And then the cat knocked over a bottle of svagdricka? And little (typical Swedish boy’s name) dropped his raisin snack into the mix because that’s what children the world over do – drop things into other things to see if it upsets Mama? And everyone was too disgusted by the whole episode to clean it up for six weeks? And there was an argument. And someone stormed out of the house and fell into the fjord. And then the funeral – oh, the cold winds that blew at that funeral! Oh, (Swedish word indicating lamentation)! What sorrow! And then everyone returned home to warm up. And someone spied the bucket of old potatoes, alcohol, and raisins and decided to take a sip from it because, hell, what was there to lose now that so-and-so had fallen into the fjord. Who knows?! Human beings are amazingly courageous! And resilient! And insane!