Entries in Christmas (10)
The cookies and cakes are only a small part of the German Christmas Market traditions. The drinks are also pretty important - all designed to warm your hands and your insides on a cold night out.
Most stands will serve Glühwein (mulled wine), Glühwein mit Schuss (with a shot of rum or liqueur), and Kinderpunsch (non-alcoholic Glühwein). And sometimes we'll find hot cider, mead, and other variations on Glühwein. In Munich, cocktails have become quite trendy in the past couple of years - not surprising that this year hot caipirinhas ("Heiße Caipis") showed up in many Christmas Markets.
My favorite, however, is the Feuerzangenbowle. I think it tastes better (like a less sweet, more alcoholic Glühwein) and since it involves fire, it's also pretty cool.
The word translates as "Flaming Tongs Punch," refering to the tongs that hold a sugar cone over the bowl of mulled wine. The sugar cone is soaked in rum, and flaming rum poured over it, dripping caramelized sugar and hot rum into the mulled wine. Delicious!
Many Christmas markets will have a Feuerzangenbowle stand, or people often make it at home for parties during Christmas and New Years. Here in Munich, the English-speaking community refers to the drinks as "Pots of Evil," a very appropriate name given their taste and potency!
Here in Munich, we have the World's Largest Feuerzangenbowle, which luckily lasts beyond the Christmas Markets until Epiphany (January 6th). The giant bowl holds up to 9,000 liters of punch. It's set up inside the Isartor, one of the gates from the old city walls. As usual, there are also a few stands serving bratwurst, french fries, crepes and other standard festival fare.
They project on the walls the movie "Die Feuerzangenbowle," which is one of THE classic German films. Made in 1943 or 44, it's a sentimental story of school days and what makes life worth living...intended to be a morale booster in the final months of the war.
The film stars one of the most beloved German actors of all time, Heinz Rühmann, who made over 100 films from 1926 to 1993.
Today, it's kind of like the Rocky Horror Picture Show of Germany, where most people can quote some (or all!) of the movie today. Many universities have showings before the Christmas break, with props, drinking games, and other traditions. Definitely worth a watch if you can find it with subtitles. (Even if you watch it in German, use the German subtitles....between the sound quality and the old words and accent, it can be tough to understand).
Many people recreate the experience at home, making Feuerzangenbowle and showing the movie.
You can order the sets and sugar cones in the US from GermanDeli.com, and probably from other German food sites. They have a good recipe and instructional video in the product details.
Either make your own mulled wine from scratch, buy it premade in bottles, or you can also buy the premixed spice packages to just add to a bottle of wine.
2 bottles of Merlot or Burgundy wine (a dry red wine might be too bitter)
4 thin slices of orange with the peel on
4 thin slices of lemon with the peel on
Juice of 2 fresh oranges
Juice of 2 fresh lemons
½ tsp fresh orange rind
½ tsp fresh lemon rind
4 Cinnamon sticks
1 sugar cone (Zuckerhut)
1 cup (approximately) of Rum (must be 151 proof Rum, or it won't flame)
1 heat and flame-proof Punch Bowl (ideally glass)
1 Stainless Steel Bridge, if not already part of your punch bowl set
Long match or lighter
In a large pot add both bottles of wine and all ingredients except the sugar cone and the rum. Simmer the wine and fruit and spices over low heat for about 15 minutes. Don't boil the wine. The wine should be hot but not scalding. If you are using GermanDeli's flame/heat-proof glass punch bowl, carefully add the hot wine (with fruit, cinnamon, etc.) to the punch bowl. With your guests gathered around, place the punch bowl in a dimly-lit room. Light the candle below the punchbowl to help keep the wine warm. Place the stainless steel bridge across the top of the punch bowl. Unwrap the sugar cone and place it on the bridge. Slowly pour the 151-proof rum onto the cone, rotating the cone until it is soaked with the rum. Light the sugar cone with the match or lighter. The sugar cone will dissolve as the burning rum heats up the cone. The caramelized sugar will drip into the punch to sweeten it and the rum will enhance the flavor.
recipe via GermanDeli
I'm inspired to try some modern gingerbread houses next year. Or maybe for a Christmas in July party?
Falling Water Gingerbread House:
The Wedge House:
National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (Washington, DC):
I love the icicles...they remind me of the ones on St Bart's in New York after Christmas.
St. Basil's on Red Square: (I think...)
And, while not a building, the Gingerbread Serenity is pretty clever!
And then there's the original gingerbread house...the one the witch built to trap Hansel and Gretl. I never quite made that connection until I saw these gingerbread houses in Nürnberg. Not only do they have a picture of the old lady inviting a boy and girl in, they're even labeled "Hexenhaus," which means "Witch's House."
Herr J and I spent Christmas with my family in coastal South Carolina.
Every family has its own traditions, but deep frying the Turkey has become quite popular for Thanksgiving and Christmas in the South. Not only is the turkey tasty and juicy, but the process is fun. To put it in man-friendly terms, there is fire, hot oil, drinking outdoors, and the potential for serious injury and/or property damage. So, who wouldn't love it?
To fry a turkey, you need a couple of things...a huge pot with a propane burner, peanut oil, thermometer, and a rack or basket for the turkey.
For safety, it's also best to have an outdoor non-flammable surface and heavy gloves.
And for enjoyment, a couple of soccer-mom chairs and some adult beverages.
Heat the oil until it reaches 350°.
Because different sized turkeys will displace different amounts of liquid, you'll want to measure how much oil to use. Using too much will cause a spill (and an unpleasant oil fire), and too little will also be a problem. Dad's brilliant method is to test it with your turkey and water to determine the correct amount to cover the turkey. He then removes the turkey, marks the correct water level, and refills the pot with oil up to the mark.
See here for videos demonstrating exactly why you don't want the oil to overflow...or why not to fry on your deck. ("7 Best Deep-Fried Turkey Disasters")
Best to marinate the turkey the night before - here he used butter and spices. Some people put a rub under the skin or use injectors to inject spices into the turkey. We prefer our turkey to taste like turkey rather than spices, so we went with the simpler method.
Place turkey on the turkey frying rack. Carefully lower into boiling oil.
Continue to cook (covered, keeping the oil around 325°F) until a meat thermometer reads 170° F in the breast and 180° F in the thigh. It should take around 3 minutes per pound for a whole turkey. Then carefully remove turkey, cool a few minutes, and serve.
Along with the turkey, we usually have prime rib, collards, spiced peaches, rice, green beans (the only green vegetable I would eat as a child...now I also eat asparagus), dressing, gravy, sweet potatoes, and biscuits. And a table full of wonderful homemade desserts....German Chocolate Cake, pecan pie, pound cake (my aunt make the best pound cake in the world!), sweet potato pie, this year's new feature Lemon Coconut Spice Cake, and whatever other cookies or candies people have given us for the holidays. And then we go into a food coma watching football....
What are your Christmas dinner traditions?
So as not to spoil Herr J's fun, I did not reveal online the contents of his Advent Beer Calendar.
Some we had tried before (in the German Beer Championship), and others were new....but the calendar opened up possibilities of non-German beers and "beers" that do not conform to the Reinheitsgebot, and thus cannot be called "beer."
The 24 Beers of Advent 2010 were:
Beck's Green Lime
Paulaner Originial Münchener Hell
Paulaner Hefeweißbier Natrutrüb
Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen Grapefruit
Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen Kaktusfeige (Cactus-Fig flavor)
Magners Irish Cider
Budvar (the Czech Budweiser)
Cab (Dragon-Fruit flavored cola & beer)
Samuel Smith's India Ale
Samuel Smith's Taddy Porter
Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale
Legendary Duff Beer (yes, Homer Simpson's favorite)
And as with any chocolate sampler, there are one or two "suprises"....here we had two potential bombs: Cab, the Dragonfruit-flavored Cola & Beer, and Desperados Tequila-flavored beer.
Now, you have to understand that I mock Desperados relentlessly. I had never tried it, but the commercials were endless on MTV and billboards. And I just didn't get the concept. Sure, I enjoyed a nice tequila followed by a Bohemia beer in Mexico. But I did not mix them. And most of the under-25 party crowd (the group targeted by Desperados) doesn't drink tequila for it's taste....so why flavor a beer with tequila?
But I tried it, blindly, in a taste test with Samuel Smith's India Ale. (In my cute Ladybug and Ribbit glasses that we often use for tasting....)
Herr J brought me a glass of each, without telling me what I was drinking. The India Ale was a bit too hoppy for my taste.
And after a sip of the Desperados, I said, "Wow, that's good, suprisingly sweet. What is it?"
I was shocked when he told me. Now, I probably wouldn't order it in a bar or buy a case. But it mostly tastes like a Radler (half beer, half lemon soda) or a Beck's lime. So, a super light and refreshing beer with a little sweetness. Something you would drink on a hot summer day in Texas or by the river. So, I stand corrected, and there is actually a time and a place for drinking Desperados. Not sure why they say it tastes like tequila, but I guess that makes it sound edgier than Beck's Lime or Bud Light Lime.
We'll let you know how the Cab tastes....It's brewed by Krombacher, so it might be actually be good.
Now that there are no surprises to ruin...here's what we found in them!
The Handyman's Advent Calendar ("Heimwerker-Adventskalender"):
This one suprised us, because it actually contained small-sized useful tools and supplies. Herr J's favorites were the multi-tool, the wall anchors (" 'Cause those are always useful"), the keychain LED-flashlight, and the padlock caribiner.
My favorite - purely for its humor factor - was Day 22...Bandaids. A must-have for every handyman!
Mini-Box Cutter, 2 sizes wall anchors and screws, nails, mini screwdriver with 6 interchangeable heads, Phillips screwdriver, Standard screwdriver, 2 rolls electrical tape, mini line level, surfact 2-D level, keychain LED flashlight, picture wire, mini swiss army knife, bandaids, tape measure caribiner, multi-tool, small padlock, combination lock caribiner, santa keychain, bungee cord, and magnifying glass. Wow!
The Kinder Egg one was incredibly fun...not only do you get chocolate, you get toys...and the challenge of some assembly required. This calendar included everything from several Christmas ornaments (cute animals, strangely all wearing backpacks...guess they were carrying gifts??) to an inflatable paper cat (atop the capsules that contained the toys)...along with a ring that stamped "Hello" in Russian, a spinning top, and a cute brontosaurus.
For those of you not familiar with this wonderful German treat, the Kinder Suprise Egg ("Kinder Überraschung") is a life-sized chocolate eggshell (in a milky chocolate, healthy for children) which contains a toy stuffed into a yolk-looking yellow capsule inside. Toys range from preassembled small cars or animals to larger toys requiring some thought in how to follow the instructions. The designers who create these things and figure out how to efficiently stuff a huge toy into an egg rival Apple's packaging designers!
Here's a great example of the design genius - a plastic glider wrapped up inside the egg:
I had a suspision that this might happen: Frau A got me a man purse for Christmas. She explained, "You thought you wanted one, and I knew it would take you forever to take the plunge yourself." She was right, of course. The concept of a man purse seemed to be functionally a perfect item for me, but there were too many style options to select one. It required an expert to avoid disaster. (Note: after seeing her operate in Sephora in New York City, I now fully appreciate how years of training allow women to survive and flourish in what is effectively the most perfect testosterone vacuum ever created by science and choose from endless arrays of products.)
I was pretty sure a black one would go with a business suit and casual clothes, and that I would prefer something with minimal flair/decorations/etc. I "tried on" a few in stores, but was never really sure. Frau A was there for the man purse expeditions, and thought one of them was right for me -- turned out to be a good choice. Here it is:
For me, function is more important than fashion, and on this level it's great. The bag is structured like a satchel (similar to Indiana Jones and Jack Bauer, of course), with just a flap to close rather than a zipper. I like fast access to the stuff inside. Maybe I need an extra gun clip and a whip too.
Internally, a separator creates two areas. The area closest to the body has small, soft pockets for things like a cell phone/iPod, plus a zippered pocket where I keep my wallet (feels more secure). It also has a long key leash that makes it easy to find keys right away.
The area that lies away from the body has no internal pockets, and is perfect for a paperback, compact camera, gloves, and even a tote-sized umbrella. It would fit an iPad no problem, and could temporarily carry a laptop too (except the largest ones).
I like the look too. Nice, thick black leather with just a small adornment on the front. The leather is starting to break in already, and feels strong but soft. It's great to get something that I'll use every day. Thanks, Santa.