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 slow cooker 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.
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.
Why this recipe is so great
Mulled wine is basically wine that is heated and combined with sugar and spices. It has been enjoyed for centuries. It is enjoyed all over Europe and comes in a variety of different versions.
My version combines this lovely tradition with my family’s favorite fruit for this season, the pomegranate. My husband was new to this stuff, so I explained to him that mulled wine is like a warm, spiced Sangria.
It is easy to mix up, whether you want a little for just you and your honey or if you need a large vat for your next holiday party. The spices are not overly strong or offensive, but adds wonderful aroma and flavor.
A small glass of this pomegranate mulled wine, and I was feeling warm and toasty!
Ingredients you need
- Red wine: Mulled wine is a little fruity, so choose a fruity wine like a Merlot or Shiraz.
- Pomegranate juice: You can use freshly squeezed or store bought pomegranate juice.
- Brandy: I am not a huge connoisseur on liqueur. But if you have a choice on what kind of brandy to use, try to use a fruity version.
- Pomegranate arils: You can add as much or as little pomegranate arils as you like. One large pomegranate will give you about 1 cup of arils. You can learn how to cut and seed a pomegranate here.
- Granulated sugar: You can also sweeten your concoction with brown sugar, honey or agave syrup.
- Orange: I love the smell and flavor of oranges. And the slices look gorgeous with touches of crimson from sitting in the mulled wine.
- Cinnamon sticks: Nothing screams Christmas like the smell of cinnamon. You do not want ground cinnamon but the sticks themselves.
- Cloves: Another favorite scent of holiday baking comes from cloves. Again, we are using whole cloves and not ground.
- Cardamom pods: This is the Persian touch to my mulled wine. We use a lot of cardamom in our tea and in our baking. You want the whole pods.
1. In a large sauce pan or pot over medium-low heat combine red wine, pomegranate juice, brandy, pomegranate arils, sugar and orange slices. You can also put everything in a slow cooker and heat on low. Stir until sugar is dissolved.
2. 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.
3. Serve warm after approximately 30 minutes. The longer the spice bundle sits in the wine, the more flavor your drink will have. If using a slow cooker, cook for 1 hour.
Expert Tips and Recipe FAQS
You can spice the mulled wine to cater to your own preferences. For fruit, you can add slices of apples or pears instead of oranges. For kick in flavor, add star of anise and/or peppercorns.
Although mulled wine is by name alcoholic, you can modify this recipe 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.
If you are serving this at 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 leftovers, 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: 134Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 9mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 1gSugar: 13gProtein: 0g
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