How to Make Mulling Spices for the Holidays

How To

How-tos, Tips, and Tricks

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[Photograph: Kumiko Mitarai]

Get the Recipe

When I was five years old, I gave my parents a Christmas present we had made at school: a jelly jar filled with mulling spices. I think it was just Tang and ground cinnamon mixed together but I couldn't have been prouder: I had made astronaut cider!

Wanting to recreate this gift in a more grown-up form, I recently filled some cotton spice bags with cracked spices, crystallized ginger, and dried orange zest. These sachets of mulling spices make a festive gift, plus it's also kind of fun to smash the spices with a frying pan, a technique that can come in handy in dealing with any holiday aggression.

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20101101-mulling spices-cheesecloth.JPGThe mulling spices fit neatly in little cotton spice bags (often sold as "bouquet garni bags"). Alternatively, you can wrap up the spices with a triple layer of cheesecloth and cooking twine. Either way, they should then be packed up in an airtight container or bag and stored in a cool, dark place to preserve the flavor. I wrapped mine up in cellophane gift bags.

To prepare mulled cider, simply steep the bag of mulling spices in a barely simmering covered pot of cider. If you'd like it even more "grown-up," spike it with a splash of Grand Marnier or Calvados. Disks of crystallized ginger and orange slices make a nice garnish.

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Mulled wine: You can also use the mulling spices from the mulled cider recipe for making mulled red wine. Instead of a 1/2 gallon of cider, use a 750ml bottle of red table wine, along with about 1/3 cup each of port and orange juice to add a little sweetness.