As a German living in Chicago for a while now, I have embraced the American holidays, especially Thanksgiving. For me, Thanksgiving is basically a “friends-giving” holiday since I usually spend it with dear friends reconnecting and remembering good times. Since the holiday is just a few days away, I hope you took advantage of The Chopping Block's Thanksgiving classes, especially our Thanksgiving Crash Course. If not, there's always our Thanksgiving Survival Guide to get you through the week.
While Germans don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, I do remember spending time with my family. Grandma (Oma) used to bake gingerbread houses for the house and also for the whole neighborhood!
Growing up in Bavaria, it's traditional to enjoy bratwurst and heartwarming Gluehwein during the holidays. Gluehwein is a spiced mulled wine. You can either purchase the readily available bottles or you can make it yourself.
Originally from Nuremberg, Gluehwein translates as “glowing wine,” this stems from the hot irons once used for mulling. Although, this is no longer the case today, historically speaking, the idea of making Gluehwein sparked around the 1420’s when thrifty folks noticed wine starting to go bad. In order to make sour wine drinkable again, they added some honey and spices and voila, Gluehwein!
If you would like to experience German culture in Chicago, don't miss the annual Chriskindlmarket. For the past 20 years, thanks to the support of the city and several corporations, the Chriskindlmarket has become a great Chicago tradition. It opens the day before Thanksgiving at the Daley Plaza (by “the Picasso”) and stays open for a whole month. Is a great place to bring the family, meet with friends, enjoy German food, and purchase ornaments and gifts, but most importantly you may purchase Gluehwein!
If you want to try the homemade version, here is a quick and easy recipe.
1 bottle red wine (try a dry robust fruity wine, one you would drink by itself)
1 lemon, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons sugar
Add all of the ingredients in a pot and bring to a simmer.
Make sure the wine does not boil. This is very important to prevent the Gluehwein from becoming bitter. Serve hot in a mug.
If you’re interested in learning about German cooking, we have a Christmas in the Alps cooking class. My German Comfort Food class will also be returning in the new year.