Celebrate the Winter Solstice (Shabe Yalda) and the longest night of the year with this warm and spiced pomegranate mulled wine. Keep it warm in a crockpot and serve it at your next holiday party! Find more of my pomegranate recipes.
Next week, on the evening of December 22, the northern hemisphere will be experiencing the longest night of the year. With this glass is half full mentality, this could be seen as a good thing. But for someone like me, who prefers daylight to moonlight, I decide to look at it as the days starting to get a little bit longer beginning December 23rd.
I have found that my mood tends to darken during the winter months. I am definitely not a night owl. Just ask my husband! I could easily go to bed around 8pm every night. Here in San Diego, the sun is down before 5pm during the winter months.
They call it seasonal affective disorder, or winter depression. Luckily for me, it’s nothing severe, but I serious do not like the shorter days.
Shabe Yalda: The Winter Solstice
In Persian culture, the winter solstice is celebrated with the holiday, Shabe Yalda. It is not as big of a holiday like our new year, Nowruz (the first day of Spring). But it is still a very special time.
“In most ancient cultures, including Persia, the start of the solar year has been marked to celebrate the victory of light over darkness and the renewal of the Sun.”
During the ancient times, Persians followed the Zoroastrian religion. With the days getting longer and the nights shorter, this marked as a victory of the Sun over darkness. The sun was essential for farming. And during the cold winter months, the sun was the one element that would protect the winter crops from freezing.
Foods for Shabe Yalda
Typically, for Shabe Yalda, many Persians gather together around the korsi, a low, square-sh table covered with a nice thick blanket/comforter that would cover all sides. A small pan filled with hot coals is placed under the table, or for modern times, a small electric heater.
Everyone would sit by the korsi and put their legs under the blanket and enjoy the warmth together. Fruits and nuts would be shared and hot tea would be enjoyed. It’s all about huddling together during this “dark time.” Pomegranates are a staple for celebrating Shabe Yalda, as it is readily available during this time of year.
What is Mulled Wine?
Mulled wine is basically wine that is heated and combined with sugar and spices. Mulled wine has been enjoyed for centuries, dating back to Ancient Greece and Rome. It was a way to use up old wine that was just beginning to spoil.
Mulled wine took over Europe during the Middle Ages and continues to flourish as a winter drink. It is especially enjoyed in the United Kingdom during the Christmas holidays. Mulled wine comes in a variety of different spices and blends depending on different parts of Europe.
In Nordic countries, it mulled wine is called gløgg, and comes in alcoholic and non-alcoholic varieties. You can also find mulled wine in other European countries like Croatia, France, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Poland and Turkey. You can also learn more about the history of mulled wine.
Pomegranate Mulled Wine
So I decided to celebrate shabe yalda with some mulled wine. And for something different, I made a Pomegranate Mulled Wine. My husband was new to mulled wine, so I explained to him that mulled wine is like a warm, spiced Sangria.
For my spice mix, I infused cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks and cloves with my pomegranate juice, brandy and red wine. You can also add peppercorns and star of anise, but that is too strong for my personal taste. A small glass of this pomegranate mulled wine, and I was feeling warm and toasty.
Is Mulled Wine Still Alcoholic?
Although mulled wine is by name alcoholic, you can modify this recipe for pomegranate mulled wine to be a warm spiced pomegranate drink. Dilute with a little water as pomegranate juice is pretty powerful on it’s own and warm it up with the spices for a wonderful non-alcoholic spiced mocktail.
How long will mulled wine last?
If you are serving mulled wine for a holiday party, you can easily make it ahead and reheat it. You can serve it in a slow cooker, too, just keep it on low or warm. Now just in case you find yourself with some leftover mulled wine, you can store the leftovers in a sealed container for three to five days in the refrigerator.
- 750 mL red wine
- 2 cup pomegranate juice
- 1/2 cup brandy
- 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 orange, sliced into rounds
- 2 cinnamon sticks, 3-inches long
- 4 cloves
- 6 cardamom pods
- In a large sauce pan over medium-low heat combine red wine, pomegranate juice, brandy, pomegranate arils, sugar and orange slices.
- Stir until sugar is dissolved.
- Wrap cinnamon sticks, cloves and cardamom pod in a cheesecloth and close with butcher's twine.
- Place spice bundle into pot and stir mixture. Continue cooking over medium-low heat but do not bring to a boil
- Serve warm after approximately 30 minutes. The longer the spice bundle sits in the wine, the more flavor your drink will have.
Serving Suggestions: Serve warm with pomegranate arils. For large parties, keep your pomegranate mulled wine warm in a crockpot.
Cooking Tips: If you like a lot of spice, add some peppercorns and star of anise to the infusing mix. Oranges used in this recipe are the Cara Cara variety, which has thinner skin and a slight tart flavor.
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Serving Size:1 glass
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 134 Total Fat: 0g Saturated Fat: 0g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 9mg Carbohydrates: 16g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 1g Sugar: 13g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 0g