I love giving edible gifts, mostly because a handmade one seems somehow more generous than something you just bought at a store; it can also be a thrifty way to declutter your closets. This Christmas I’m making mulled wine pouches using warming spices and reserved dried ginger and citrus zest, which I’ve dried over the oven. Spices are best bought whole, rather than ground, as they stay fresher this way. Even so, they too will lose potency over time, so it’s a good idea to rotate them, making sure older spices run out before buying substitutes. (At home, we keep a “use next” box of dry ingredients on the countertop, which often doubles as inspiration for our next meal.)
Spice bag for mulled wine
This makes a sweet little treat and is a great way to use ingredients from the store cupboard. If you want to be really generous, give away the other ingredients of mulled wine as well, whether it’s wine, honey or maple syrup, orange juice, or even a bottle of liqueur. Note that all ingredients for the bag are optional – I’ve included a long list in hopes you have at least a few on hand. Like chai tea, mulled wine recipes vary widely and are delicious even when made with few spices.
Does 12 cups (that is, when mixed with two bottles of wine)
For the spice bag
2 bay leaves
1 small cinnamon stick
2-3 star anise
3-6 cardamom pods
6 grains of black pepper
1 thin slice Nutmeg
2-4 cm dry ginger peel
3 dried citrus peels
3 pieces dried fruit (plums, figs and/or apricots, let’s say)
4cm piece vanilla pod
For mulled wine
350ml of orange juiceor water
4-6 spoonful of honey, maple syrup or sugar (optional)
2 bottles of 750ml Red wine
spirit 50-100ml – brandy, whip or gin (optional)
To make the mulled wine bag, place a combination of all the ingredients in the center of a piece of cheesecloth or muslin, then tie it neatly to seal, so it looks a bit like an old money bag; note that all ingredients are optional, so adjust the quantities according to your taste.
To make mulled wine, pour orange juice (or water) into a small saucepan and add honey, maple syrup or sugar, if using, to taste. Place the bag of mulled wine in the pan, then bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring, for five minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat the red wine to just below boiling point. Pour the mixture from the mulled pot and, if desired, top up with your favorite schnapps. Keep the mixture warm over low heat and serve.