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Look, we know what you’re thinking: This is by far one of our worst pun-based ideas. But Greg gets real pissy if we don’t let him just go to town roasting something, both literally and figuratively, every thirty days or so. And so we present: MEATWATCH, SWEDISH HOLIDAY EDITION.
We ran out of meats already, I guess, somehow? So we’re mixing it up this time and covering Glogg, a hideous concoction that Condit has cyberbullied us into trying. The tenuous connection to meat here is that we’re going to talk about a goat first. Specifically, the Gävle christmas goat, in Sweden.
The goat is a community holiday decoration, and a local landmark. A colossal straw decoration erected over a wooden frame, it’s something of a cross between every Hallmark movie’s small-town Main Street Christmas tree and the lighted reindeer lawn ornaments you’d see in the US, but far less tacky and on a scale that your average suburban homeowner can only dream of. What I love about this goat is that, in three years out of four, it gets set on fire. Sometimes multiple times a year. The Swedes, a people not exactly known for outrageous violence, see this wholesome symbol of yuletide spirit and communal celebration, and, 75% of the time, one of them decides that it simply cannot be allowed to survive.
I highly recommend reading Wikipedia’s year-by-year breakdown of the Goat’s fate, by the way. It’s a real murderer’s row, and almost every single one is a little vignette into man’s inhumanity toward the thing. I think it benefits greatly from their dry house style – the simple coda of “This goat was later hit by a car” is a better joke than I’ll ever write, even moreso for not being intended as one. Torching the goat is an institution now, to the point that bets are placed on when it’ll happen and, in one of my very favorite burnings, an American tourist participated because he appears to have genuinely thought it was allowed, if not encouraged. In his mind, he was supposed to burn it, that’s why they built it. I’m not so sure he was wrong, though maybe a little ahead of the curve.
My editors are forcing me to state clearly and for the record that Goonhammer does not endorse the cool crime of vandalism, but on a personal level, young people doing rude shit is genuinely one of my favorite things in the entire world. It’s always so stupid, and it benefits no one, but on some level I’m jealous of the commitment to not giving a fuck, just absolutely 100% doing whatever you want, even if you really shouldn’t. Do I think it’s a good idea to smash milk jugs into each other in the grocery store? Of course not. But do I laugh uncontrollably when I see a video of it? Absolutely. I long to have that degree of freedom, even while I mourn how wastefully they’re spending it.
And look, I get that torching a community’s holiday decorations isn’t the best thing to be defending. People put a lot of work into the goat and I’m sure they’re gutted, year after year, seeing their proud accomplishment engulfed in flames. Imagine the families that planned to bring their kids and grandparents to see the famous Big Goat, having to cancel their plans last-minute due to it caught fire again. Or, picture them arriving to a charred husk, and now all the kids are crying because they think Santa was inside and he’s dead. It sucks! But also, in all the years of comical (in quantity, if nothing else) holiday arson, the only person it looks to have physically injured is one lightly-charred arsonist. It’s not harmless, no, as it’s only a matter of time before a firefighter gets hurt extinguishing the goat, but as-is I have a hard time getting too upset here.
More than anything else, though, I love the emergent culture that happened here. No one who started this intended for the goat to burn every year – though, if we’re being honest, after the first 20 years you’d think they’d have learned that making the most flammable structure possible was a bad play – but the local disrespectful teens decided that no, actually, this is what the goat is for now. It’s become a challenge issued by the community, to the community. Worshipping the Gävle goat as a giant celebratory idol might have been the point in the beginning, but the street finds its own uses for things. The new holiday tradition can be found in the burning. They should just lean into it.
All this talk about Swedish Chaos brings us to Glogg, a beverage that Condit either invented or dredged up from the stygian depths, which seems to be a form of Nordic Christmas Ruining Potion. I’ll let him explain how it’s made, but I don’t think he can ever explain why it’s made. Here’s Condit.
Glogg: A Real Drink, which exists.
Condit: Thanks, Greg. Many of you will have tried “mulled wine” or “spiced wine” or “hot wine” at some point in the past, and glogg is the Scandinavian version of that. However, while everyone has their own recipe for the stuff, it tends to be made with liquor and higher in alcohol content, presumably because you’re not going to be driving at night in the winter in Sweden anyway, so you might as well just get blitzed and go to sleep.
Fun gloggfact: mixologists believe that there may actually be more recipes for glogg than there are people in Sweden, and evidence suggests that glogg recipes are sentient and self-replicating. They have also developed a totally-understandable loathing of humanity, which explains why so many of them include actively hateful shit like Aquavit, which is a liquor that claims to be made from potatoes and flavored with caraway, dill, and other herbs, but anyone who’s actually tried it will swear on the scripture of their choice that it’s actually distilled from urine collected from yaks raised on a diet of ouzo and lutefisk. Then again, coming from people who think that “Banana Curry Pizza” is a perfectly fine thing to put in their mouths voluntarily, I’m not sure what I was expecting.
This particular recipe came to me (blessedly aquavit-free) from a recipe card that my grandmother wrote in pencil back in like the 60s or something, probably filed next to her recipe for coleslaw in a Jell-O mold or whatever other culinary abominations people in the midwest get up to. My dad made a few changes, notably adding a little bit of Everclear to the concoction and upping the helping of raisins, since he likes to eat them like a snack while his latest batch is cooling. Then I got a hold of it, fiddled with the spices a bit, increased the ABV even further, and turned it into the purest expression of liquid holiday cheer I have found to date.
Two important safety notes: first, it’s included in the instructions below but it bears repeating here: do not use a copper or aluminum pot. There is apparently the possibility that the high alcohol content will cause something to leach out into the drink and possibly kill you or something. I use an enameled stock pot and it works great, but stainless steel will work fine.
Second: make sure you’ve got adequate ventilation. You’re cooking down a pot of booze that will catch fire if you hold a match to it, and some of the alcohol is going to cook off. This is especially important here because it smells like Christmas and you’re going to be tempted to take a nice whiff of it while it’s simmering. If you don’t have good enough air movement or forget to turn on the vent fan or whatever, you could have a problem. Just be smart and make sure there’s somewhere for the fumes to go, and enjoy getting mildly buzzed just by being in the room. Also probably don’t make it if you have someone who’s pregnant or otherwise could potentially be harmed by alcohol in the house.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, BEHOLD:
- 3L port GREGNOTE: Jesus Christ, this is the first ingredient?
- 750mL brandy, plus extra to taste
- 1 pint of the purest grain alcohol you can get your hands on GREGNOTE: CHRIST.
- 10 3-4″ cinnamon sticks
- 15 cardamom seed pods
- 2 dozen whole cloves
- 1 orange peel, whole and washed
- 1/2 cup dark raisins
- 1 cup blanched almonds
- 2 cups sugar
- Crack open the cardamom pods.
- Pour the port into a stainless steel, porcelain, or enameled kettle (Important note: DO NOT USE COPPER OR ALUMINUM, YOU MIGHT DIE).
- Put the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and orange peel into a cheesecloth bag, and put it in the port with the raisins and almonds. Cover and simmer.
- Put sugar in a pan (not nonstick, as you’re going to stir the sugar and this will scratch the shit out of the coating) and soak it with half the brandy. Warm over medium-low heat and stir occasionally, until the sugar dissolves in and it becomes a syrup.
- Simmer for ~15 minutes, until bubbles get big.
- Add sugar syrup to spiced wine mix. Cover and simmer.
- Add remaining brandy and grain and stir. Cover and simmer.
- After it all melds, light it on fire and let it burn for ~15 seconds, then cover and simmer
- Add more brandy and/or sugar to taste. I usually wind up adding most of the rest of the bottle. You can also light it on fire again after this if you’re into that.
- Remove and discard the spices and orange peel before serving. If you don’t serve immediately, save the raisins and almonds before bottling the glogg.
Serve hot in a mug. If you’re reheating, you can add the raisins and almonds before heating and serving.
GREGNOTE: I honestly can’t recommend enough that you don’t make this. It sounds absolutely lethal.
A couple of years ago my aunt found some “traditional glogg mugs” which are basically thimbles with tiny handles on the side, if that gives you any idea of how much you should be serving. A single mug of this will get you where you need to be, and then take you a little bit further into a level of Christmas cheer that your friends and family honestly may not be adequately prepared for the first time you try it. My dad and I are Experienced Glogg Professionals and will typically have two mugs of the stuff with a whole pile of food over the course of an evening, maybe flexing into a third if we don’t have anywhere to be the next day and are adequately hydrated. Those of you with less experience are advised to limit your intake, lest you find yourself enshrined in the International Glogg Hall Of Shame, like the following poor individuals:
- My mom, who drank one mug once and passed out and now won’t touch the stuff ever again;
- My parents’ asshole neighbor, who did not listen to our warning to take it easy and then fell over from a standing position twice within ten minutes with such force that one of the lightbulbs in the basement underneath where he fell was dislodged from its socket;
- My friend’s dad, who appeared to be doing fine for the first hour or so but then became more talkative than I’ve ever seen him before passing out for the better part of a weekend;
- My friend, who told me I was a baby when I told him to stop after one mug, then decided to try to have an impromptu collegiate wrestling match with my sister’s fiance at 2am and wound up falling into a pool;
- Me, who forgot to turn the fan on until halfway through cooking it once and just got completely ripshit drunk off of the fumes.
GREGNOTE: Well that sounds exactly as vile and dangerous as I thought. Thanks, I guess?
Condit: You’re welcome. We’re not done yet, though. Remember those raisins I was saying my dad likes to eat as a snack? There’s a reason for that – while the glogg is cooking, those raisins are going to soak up a bunch of the liquid they’re floating in and re-inflate. I also don’t know for sure if this is true or not, but it sure as shit seems like they absorb a disproportionate amount of alcohol, which results in them transforming into little grape-flavored gushers with an absolutely unreasonable ABV. My evidence for this claim is that when you bite into one, your tongue goes numb. If you are not as bizarre as Condad is, you can still enjoy them by saving them and floating them in the glogg when you re-heat it.
One other thing about glogg is that it keeps forever, and ages very nicely. You’re making a ton of this, and even in pre-COVID times, my family would stretch a batch out over a couple of months, even after giving away a bottle or two to friends. In fact, I’ve got a bottle of my 2019 batch still from last year, and I’ll probably keep up with my yearly tradition of finishing off last year’s vintage a week or two before making a new batch for the 2020-21 holiday season.
Bottling and storing it is pretty easy, especially since you’ve just emptied a couple of bottles of port and probably one of brandy. Just wash them out while it’s simmering and use a funnel and a ladle pour it back in the bottle after you strain out the spices, raisins, and almonds. If you’re using a bottle with a stopper (whether cork or rubber or whatever), don’t actually plug the bottle until it cools down significantly, as the cooling air will compress and make it damn near impossible to pull the thing out later. Condad claims you can save the raisins and almonds in your fridge, and given their likely alcohol content he’s probably right, but I usually just chuck them after the first time I serve the stuff. Store it like you would normal port, I guess.
When you’re ready to drink your bottle of aged glogg, just pop it open, pour it in an appropriate pot, and warm it up to a nice simmer while you bury everyone’s keys under the front porch, then serve up a nice, warm mug of spiced holiday cheer.
Sweden can go to hell.