Last summer I instituted “Sangria Sundays” in our household. A lover of sangria, especially on a hot summer day, I wanted to develop all kinds of variations of this Spanish wine classic. I had some hits, (Blackberry Plum paired with a red wine, and Melon paired with a pino grigio) as well as some misses (Pink Grapefruit….something about this was just off) Anyways, although its not exactly sangria weather outside, there are some great fruits in season now that I wanted to try to incorporate into this fun drink. Blood oranges are a milder, slightly herbal orange with bright cranberry red flesh and juice. Only available in the winter months, this citrus has a distinct flavor, but more importantly a very impressive color. I love to use blood oranges in tarts, mixed with navel oranges for a brilliant color contrast. (Tart ideas to come later)
For any of you who are not already avid sangria lovers, sangria is a sweetened wine with fruit and usually brandy. As you can imagine, the possibilities are endless. Traditional sangria is made with red wine and a combination of oranges, lemons, and limes (not surprisingly fruits that are common in Mediterranean Spain, where the drink originated). With a hint of sweetness and a burst of fruit, sangria can be a fun alternative to cocktails or wine. I think of it as a mixture of the two.
The arrival of blood oranges could only mean one thing – we had to bring back sangria Sundays. Scott and I were having friends for dinner and game night, so I figured it would be a great opportunity to test out a sangria. For this sangria, I wanted to showcase great winter citrus, so I decided to include kumquats with the blood oranges. If you are not familiar, kumquats are a tiny oval orange with an edible rind. Opposite most citrus, the rind is sweet, while the flesh is slightly bitter. They are fun to pop into your mouth….how often do you get to eat an orange whole? I must warn that they are slightly tart, but for anyone who enjoys sour (I love sour things) kumquats are a fun snack and addition to recipes.
For my sangria I chose a sauvignon blanc because of its natural tendency towards citrus flavors. Even though you sweeten sangria, it is best to use a dry wine. If a sweet wine is used, the addition of fruit and sugar would be over-powering. I also do not spend a lot of money on the wine for sangria…again, with all the additional flavors, you would over-power the nuances that make a fine wine pricey. In this particular instance, I choose Pomelo Sauvginon Blanc for $8.99 a bottle. For the “brandy” component of the sangria, I used triple sec, an orange flavored brandy. Most sangria recipes call for superfine sugar because they hope it will dissolve better into the cold liquid. I do not like to use any granular sugar at all, due to the fact that I always seem to have some cloudy sugar at the bottom. Instead, I use a simple syrup (which is a fancy pastry term for 1 C of sugar and 1 C water brought to a boil and cooled). By dissolving the sugar entirely before, you eliminate any chance of sugar settling out of your sangria. I like to “marinate” my fruit for a couple of hours, or if I am really on top of my game, overnight. Mix the simple syrup, brandy and fruit in the bottom of a pitcher. I decided to segment my blood oranges (see “Segmenting Citrus“) because the best part of sangria (for me at least) is getting to eat the liquored fruit at the bottom of the glass. If you simply slice the oranges, they are not as easily consumed. However, if you don’t feel like segmenting, slices are perfectly acceptable. I also love the look of the slices floating around in the pitcher, so a combination of slices and segments would be ideal. Because I segmented the oranges, I chose to slice the kumquats for contrast. Let the fruit and brandy marinate, refrigerated, until you are ready to serve. When you are ready to serve your sangria, simply add the bottle of wine and fresh blood orange juice. Serve chilled.
Recipe: Blood Orange & Kumquat Sangria