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The dried flower buds of a tropical evergreen tree, cloves impart their deep, almost hot flavor to a variety of holiday dishes, both sweet and savory. Used whole, they’re a favorite for studding hams, while the ground spice is used to flavor seasonal cakes and cookies. The name of these little nail-shaped spices comes from the Latin word clavus, for “nail.” Here, cloves and nutmeg are combined in a square of cheesecloth or tea ball for steeping in the wine mixture.

Ingredients:

  • 12 whole cloves
  • 2 nutmegs, cracked into pieces with a hammer
  • 2 bottles (each 750ml) dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Stripped zest from 2 oranges and 2 lemons, plus more zest for garnish
  • 3/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

Directions:

Tie the cloves and nutmeg pieces in a small square of cheesecloth, or put them in a large metal tea ball.

In a large nonaluminum pot, combine the wine, sugar, orange and lemon zests, orange and lemon juices, and cinnamon sticks. Add the clove-and-nutmeg bundle. Heat over medium-low heat until steam begins to rise from the pot and the mixture is hot, about 10 minutes; do not let it boil. Remove the clove-and-nutmeg bundle. Keep the wine warm over very low heat until ready to serve.

Ladle the wine into cups or heatproof glasses, garnish with the citrus zest and serve warm. Serves 8 to 10.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Christmas Entertaining, by Georgeanne Brennan (Simon & Schuster, 2005).