Hot wine, Christmas trees and Hobbits

I’m getting into the Chrismas spirit. I started by posting my Christmas recipe round up on Saturday and populating my Japan friendly Christmas recipe board on pinterest. I attempted to decorate the house on Sunday night but it was a big of a failure. In Japan, instead of doing spring cleaning you do osoji just before the New Years (usually December 30th or 31st) but we decided to do a large part of it this weekend and by the time I had put hot wine on the stove (this only takes a couple of minutes) and taken a bath I had no energy. I was planning on drinking hot wine, watching the first Lord of the Rings movie and trimming the tree. I ended up putting up the tree and lights and then watching the (ridiculously long but marvelous) movie until 3am in a half vegetative state. Twas good but I ended up decorating the house in the morning.  The Hobbit is coming out on the 14th in Japan so I just reread the book and am watching the Lord of the Rings Trilogy in preparation. The Hobbit only took a couple of days and was a much easier read than I remember. Then again, I probably read it last in junior high.

Christmas tree in japan

Anyhow, let’s talk hot wine. I make two kinds, one with citrus rind and one one with orange juice. The orange juice is easy to drink and is great for people who are not that into wine. I don’t add any hard liquor to mine as I don’t actually like the taste of alcohol all that much. Before I made hot wine the first time I did a bit of research and found out that cheap wine is best because it is sweet. This is great news because you can make it more often. I often use the 400 yen bottles of wine but sometimes splurge and use the 500 yen bottles.

I use cinnamon sticks ( シナモンスティック shinamon suthikku), cardamon pods (カルダモンホール karudamon hooru) and whole cloves (クローブホール kurobu hooru) in my hot wine. You can use powdered spices if you can’t find them whole but I like the whole spices. You can find all three of these spices in grocery stores that have good spice sections. They are usually less expensive in import shops that stock ingredients for Indian food. I usually bring cinnamon sticks back with me when I go back to Canada for a visit because I find them rather expensive here. One small pack of cloves and cardamon will last years but I could use a big bag of cinnamon sticks every winter.

Hot wine

Hot Wine I

1 bottle (750mL) cheap red wine
1 cup water
1/2-1 cup orange juice
1/4-1/2 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks (one is okay if you are rationing them)
1 cardamon pod
5 cloves

Bring the wine and water to a boil and add the spices. Simmer until the room smells delightfully spicy. Add the orange juice and sugar to taste. Each wine will require a different amount of sugar so I add it slowly until it reaches the perfect sweetness. The same goes for the orange juice. Serve hot.

Hot Wine II

1 bottle (750mL) cheap red wine
1 cup water
1/4-1/2 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks (one is okay if you are rationing them)
1 cardamon pod
5 cloves
half the zest of a citrus fruit of your choice

Peel the zest off of the citrus fruit – my favorites are orange, lemon or yuzu. Make sure you only get the colored part on the outside and none of the white part underneath as it is bitter. Bring the wine and water to a boil and add the spices and rind. Simmer until the room smells delightfully spicy. Add the sugar to taste. Each wine will require a different amount of sugar so I add it slowly until it reaches the perfect sweetness. Serve hot.

What’s your favorite way to make hot wine?

Iced Tea Concentrate


I have found a great space-saving way to have iced tea available more often in my fridge. I found a this sweet tea recipe on Pinterest and it sparked my interest as it contained a secret ingredient. The secret ingredient is baking soda and I have to say that it improved the taste of the tea. I never would have thought that baking soda would make such a difference.

You need a container that you can add boiling water to without it breaking. I used the container above which is pyrex. Be careful to ensure that if you are using a glass container that is clearly labelled heat safe.

 Sweetened Iced Tea Concentrate

3 tablespoons loose black tea or (5 tea bags)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 liter boiling water 

While you are waiting for the water to boil, sprinkle the baking soda in the bottom of the container you are going to use for steeping. Add the tea in bags or a mesh sieve and pour the boiling water over. Let steep for 10-15 minutes for bags. I used loose tea and poured the water through the sieve three times. Once the tea is done steeping the tea should look like black coffee like the picture above. Add the sugar in and stir until dissolved. Let cool to room temperature before refrigerating.

When you are ready to mix a glass of iced tea, mix one part tea concentrate with two parts water. This is my preferred ratio but you will need to experiment to find your desired strength.

Options I want to try

  • Using jam instead of sugar for sweetening
  • Adding lemon juice
  • Adding dried fruit when the water is hot and letting them sit over night

Salty Watermelon Pepsi Review



I only pick the really weird Pepsi flavors to try and I couldn’t resist salty watermelon. I’ve tried adzuki Pepsi and shiso Pepsi and this is the most drinkable.

I think the kiddies are going to like this Pepsi flavor. But before you pass the bottle over to the nearest little person, keep in mind that there is caffeine on the ingredients list. This tastes pretty good – watermelony with a bit of a salty aftertaste. I would recommend picking this up to share with someone because while it’s good, it still tastes like a kids’ drink.

Brewing Tea in the Refrigerator

I was a latecomer to fridge brewing. I’ve been here for nine years but only started fridge brewing a couple of years ago. Now I can’t stop, and shan’t.


Brewing your own tea in the fridge is really cheap. The mugicha (barley tea) package (right) was only 300 yen and it will last the summer. The Oolong tea (left) was a little under 400 yen and will also last a long time. I got a new brewing container this year as well. My hand doesn’t fit in my old one and it was really hard to get the inside of some of the curves clean – almost impossible. My hand fits in the new one so all is good this year.  If you are looking to buy a brewing jug I would recommend buying one made of tempered glass so that in cooler weather you can brew hot tea in it if you happen to have a large number of guests, or need to make ice tea that requires a hot brew first.

I’ve found that Japanese teas labelled 水出し(suidashi for cold water) work really well but regular Japanese teas don’t. Black tea, on the other hand, does pretty well in the fridge. Teas will take 2 hours to all night depending on the tea and the desired strength. Most teas made for cold water will take 2 hours but that depends on your container size. I usually black tea overnight using only one tea bag in a liter because I like weak tea.

Lemon Water Stock


I love lemon water. Love it. I don’t really like adding lemon slices to a pitcher because it starts to taste pithy after a while. I started juicing lemons and adding the juice to water about a year ago. I much prefer this way. Bags of lemons were on sale today so I could finally do what I’ve wanted to do for a while – freeze the juice in an ice cube tray.

For best juice extraction, cut the lemons in half and place them cut side down on a plate and microwave for about twenty seconds.

Pour about half a lemon’s worth of juice in each cube space. That should be a good portion for 1-2L depending on how lemony you like it. Freeze. Once frozen solid, place cubes in a freezer bag or Tupperware container in the freezer.