Mulling it over….

Getting a start on the Christmas presents has never smelt so good -my kitchen is lovely (for a change), this make having successfully masked the pong of the weekend’s rugby kit. When it gets cold I get all nostalgic (for many things) but mainly German Christmas markets and mulled wine. It’s fabulous -a great pairing of internal warmth and the smell that lets you know that good times are on their way, despite the weather.

These giant mulled wine t-bags are really easy to make, are great gifts over the festive season with a bottle of plonk, and can be used for a variety of other uses if you’re not a drinker. I made 6 big bags (will flavour a bottle of red) for less than £10, but depending on the size you make (you can half the size and the bottle, but seriously??) and what you already have in the store cupboard it can be done cheaper.

You will need:
1 piece of 50cm x 50cm Muslin (loose weave allows you to see a bit of what’s inside)
Cotton and a needle
Kitchen string (for tying onto a saucepan handle)
Parcel label (to write on instructions)
Small cellophane bags to store

1 large orange and 2 lemons, peeled
Per bag: 1 x star anise, 1 x cinnamon stick, 1/2 a nutmeg, 5-8 whole cloves, 3 x demerara sugar cubes.
For the spicy one: 10 x peppercorns and a large tsp on dried chilli flakes.

To Make:
– Spread the peel onto a baking tray and (whilst keeping an eye) dry out in an oven for about 30 mins at 150.
– Cut the muslin into 12 equal rectangles (just smaller than a postcard should fit the fabric) and cut the string into 20cm lengths, one for each sachet.
– Onto 6 of the rectangles, stitch a halved length of string into each corner.
– Then, adding a back rectangle, sew around three sides of the rectangles in a running stitch.
– Add in enough of the mix per bag (once the peel is out of the oven!!) and then sew up the top.
– Write brief instructions onto each of the parcel labels, decorate festively and then place into a cellophane bag and seal (This will stop everything in your house smelling and the spices loosing their impact if you make them very early).

If your sewing skills are utterly pants, just portion the mix into the cellophane bags with a label. It still looks pretty cool and does the same job, just remember to serve the mulled wine through a tea strainer!!

To Serve:
Chuck a bag into a large pan with 1 bottle of red, and the juice of 1 lemon and one orange. Simmer until the strength you like it. Don’t boil as the alcohol will evaporate.

– For the spicy one, add a large slug of brandy and don’t leave the house for 48 hours.
– For a non-alcoholic tipple, use half a carton of cranberry juice, half of apple juice and a generous measure of blackcurrant or berry cordial…this way kids can join in with a warm cup after fireworks night!
– Infuse in a saucepan with some full fat milk, which you can then make an egg custard out of…great with apple pie or winter brulee.
– Tip the contents into a large bottle of vodka and leave to infuse for at least two months. Great as a gift.
– Bung in your airing cupboard for snuggly smelling towels and sheets.
– Actually put into your husband’s rugby kit bag as a form of defence against the dark arts of smelliness.

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