As the days grow shorter and cooler, iced tea, lemonade and that cold, post-yardwork beer begin to lose their appeal. In my household, Thanksgiving marks the official beginning of mulling season. I look forward to the smell of mulling wine or cider when I come back from my Thanksgiving Turkey Trot, and again throughout the season after an afternoon of shoveling snow, skiing, or as the centerpiece of a cozy winter gathering. In addition to tingling the senses, mulled wine or cider is easy to make and allows for some culinary creativity. Collect a few ingredients, toss them in a slow cooker, and impress your guests. What could be better?
Instead of buying a packet of mulling spices, I make a quick (and inexpensive) visit to the Co-op and I’m set for a whole season of warm spiced beverages. The Co-op really is the perfect place for buying your mulling spices – where else can you buy just two star anise or cinnamon sticks? I much prefer knowing I’m getting fresh ingredients instead of something that has been sitting in my pantry for a year or more.
I have created a basic recipe that I enjoy, which is included here, but I’m always tweaking the ingredients or trying something new. Feel free to incorporate some of the suggestions at the end and make it your own!
1 bottle red wine (I prefer something rich and fruity, but inexpensive. Merlot and Zinfandel work well, and a good quality boxed wine like Bota Box or Black Box is a good bet.)
1 orange, sliced thin
2 cinnamon sticks
4 whole cloves
2 star anise
2 cups water, apple cider, or brewed tea (ginger, vanilla, or chai teas are best)
¼ cup honey
¼ cup rum, brandy, or Cointreau (optional)
Toss everything into a crockpot on low for at least 4 hours and then enjoy! Strain the spices and fruit from the wine before serving and return to the crockpot on low – or simply ladle straight from the crockpot.
Make it your own:
- For a non-alcoholic treat, replace the wine with 4-4 ½ cups of apple cider
- For an alternative adult beverage, replace the wine with 4-4 ½ cups hard apple cider (Nine Pin’s ginger cider is a great option) or mead for a crisper, fall-like drink
- Instead of an orange, add sliced lemon, lime, apple, or another one of your favorite fruits
- Add a teaspoon of fresh grated ginger or candied ginger, 2 cardamom pods, 4-6 allspice berries, 4-6 black peppercorns, ¼ cup raisins, grated nutmeg, or any other goodies from the bulk department that strike your fancy