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Today: Mulled wine gets the sangria treatment -- and stops mulling the booze away.
Wouldn't it be nice if you could take that mulled wine from your last holiday party or snowy ski weekend and bottle it? And, while we're at it, maybe not cook the alcohol away?
I'm making it sound like a new product a Real Housewife might be hired to promote, but it's a real thing. And it's good. And we've been doing it since the 1300s.
Like sangria, Ypocras is never cooked -- it's simply infused with spices and sugar at room temperature, so the booze doesn't fizzle away.
As Willan explains, "It was a way of preserving wine before bottles and corks" -- and it will keep for a month. It also happens to be lovely for sipping.
It's sweet and winey like port, with four heady spices breathing in the fire of a harder aperitif.
It's a simple potion to make -- mix spices with brown sugar and wine, wait a day or two, strain. Willan even suggests pouring it back into the original bottle, if you don't have a prettier vessel around.
You can also cook with it -- The Cookbook Library includes a recipe for using it to marinate then braise salmon, but I can see this in desserts or saucing big hunks of game meat too.
"Ypocras, diluted with an equal amount of water, is perfect for poaching whole pears or peaches," Willan suggests. "And a teaspoon of Ypocras in a glass of sparkling white wine makes an unusual Kir."
Bookmark this recipe for the holidays -- you will have a raucous party with Ypocras in tow -- but don't wait till then to try it. It's good to keep around as we shake off the chill -- to sip after dinner, or before, or with steak, cheese, or cookies, or when you're in the bathtub. Just like they did in the 1300s.
Anne Willan's Ypocras (Spiced Red Wine)
Recipe adapted slightly from The Cookbook Library (University of California Press, 2012)
Makes 3 cups (750 ml)
1 cup brown sugar, packed (200 grams)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground mace
1 tablespoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon ground grains of paradise (you can find them online or substitute an equal amount of black pepper)
1 bottle fruity red wine, such as Merlot (750 ml)
Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].
Photos by James Ransom