Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Prosit Neujahr!

My Mom's father immigrated to Canada from an area of Russia that is now Ukraine. Her mother's parents also immigrated to Canada from the same area of Russia. Even though, they lived in Russia, they considered themselves German and left Russia only when Tsar Alexander III made it illegal to teach their children in German schools and worship their God in German churches. My Mom's parents spoke German at home, and only started speaking English after their oldest child, Ruth, went to school and could not speak English.

So I though it would be interesting to explore some of the traditions German-speaking people use to celebrate New Year's Day. After reading about several traditions, I believe this one is my favorite:  the "Feuerzangenbowle" (flaming fire tongs punch). Sounds lethal! Part of the popularity of the "Feuerzangenbowle" is based on a classic novel of the same name by Heinrich Spoerl (1887-1955) and the 1944 film version starring the popular German actor Heinz Ruhmann. The main ingredients for the hot punch drink are red wine, rum, oranges, lemons, cinnamon and cloves.

Heinz Ruhmann in 1937

3 bottles of red wine (2 or 3 liters total)
2 cinnamon sticks
dash of cardamom
dash of allspice
1 or 2 oranges
1 or 2 lemons
5 cloves
1 sugar cone (sugar cubes may be substituted)
1 bottle rum

 In a large pot or kettle filled with red wine, add cinnamon sticks, cardamom, and allspice. Cut up the oranges and lemons (optional: make peel spirals), crush fruit to release the juice, and add to the punch along with the cloves. Warm to a steaming mixture. Do not boil!

Place a German sugar cone (Zuckerhut, sugar loaf)* on a metal rack/screen or clamped in metal tongs above the warm punch. (Substitute sugar cubes if you can't get a Zuckerhut.) Slowly pour high-proof rum over the Zuckerhut or sugar cubes and let soak for a minute. Carefully light the Zuckerhut or sugar cubes and let the flaming sugar carmelize and drip into the punch mix. Add rum as needed to keep the flame going until the Zuckerhut process is done. Serve the punch hot in mugs or hot-tea glasses. (Note: Traditionally, Feuerzangenbowle was prepared with the Zuckerhut sitting on crossed swords atop the pot.

Feuerzangenbowle with the German sugar cone aflame. Photo courtesy of www.teutonia-duisburg.de

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