By the time the Winter Solstice comes, we're deep into December. The days are short and what little light we receive is muted and distant. Now more than ever, there is so much more to do than hours in the day. There's baking and shopping and wrapping and making of surprises for the ones we love. And we still must do all the activities of normal life that refuse to be ignored for an entire holiday season.
My cravings for comfort are stronger than ever. I don't want to leave my flannel duvet cover and coziest pajamas in the morning. I want soup for every meal. Tea before sunup, and after sundown. Hot chocolate. Anything that will warm you, either from the outside in, or from the inside out.
Last December, I pulled out my beloved copy of jam it, pickle it, cure it to make marshmallows for hot chocolate. As I paged through the cookbook, I was reminded of another recipe that I'd always wanted to make, but never gotten the timing quite right. The recipe was for Winter Solstice Brew.
This was one of those recipes that you just know will be good. Brandy spiced with orange, cinnamon, vanilla, anise, and peppercorn. I marked my calendar for late October of this year so that for once I could get the timing right. It took mere minutes to prepare the ingredients, and then five weeks of patience.
The end result was a drink that feels like a cozy sweater for your insides. Sorry if that sounds weird, but it's true! The orange flavor was strongest initially, and the cinnamon lingered pleasantly. It's particularly good in hot apple cider. Treat yourself and your loved ones to the good apple cider in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, if you can.
I had a warm and cozy winter solstice this year, and I hope you did too. Happy holidays!
Winter Solstice Brew
Lightly Adapted from Karen Solomon's recipe in jam it, pickle it, cure it
4 cups brandy
2 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
2 vanilla beans, sliced lengthwise
3 medium oranges
Wash and quarter your oranges, and divide them equally between two clean quart jars. Add one star anise, cinnamon stick, and vanilla bean to each jar. Add twelve peppercorns to each jar. Add two cups of brandy to each jar.
Cap the jars, and shake them once daily for two weeks. After two weeks have elapsed, strain the brandy through a sieve into a measuring cup. Squeeze the juices out of the orange quarters. Bottle the brandy into smaller vessels for gifting, or return to a clean, covered jar. Let the brandy sit for 3 weeks before enjoying.