How to make a mulled wine spice pouch from old peel and spices – recipe

I love making edible gifts, mainly because a handmade one feels somehow more generous than something you’ve just bought in a shop; it can also be a thrifty way to clear out your cupboards. This Christmas, I’m making mulled wine pouches using warming spices and saved-up dried ginger and citrus peel, which I’ve dried above the oven. Spices are better bought whole, rather than ground, because they stay fresher that way. Even so, they, too, will lose potency over time, so it’s a good idea to rotate them, making sure older spices get used up before you buy replacements. (At home, we keep a “use-next” box of dried ingredients on the countertop, which often doubles up as inspiration for our next meal.)

Mulled wine spice pouch

This makes a sweet little gift and is a great way to use up store-cupboard ingredients. If you want to be really generous, gift the other mulled wine ingredients, too, be that the wine, honey or maple syrup, orange juice or even a bottle of spirits. Note that all the ingredients for the pouch are optional – I’ve included a long list in the hope that you’ll have at least some of them to hand. Like chai tea, mulled wine recipes vary greatly, and are delicious even when made with just a few spices.

Makes 12 cups (ie, when mixed with two bottles of wine)

For the spice pouch
4-6 cloves
2 bay leaves
1 small cinnamon stick
2-3 star anise
3-6 cardamom pods
6 black peppercorns
1 thin slice
2-4cm piece dried ginger peel
3 pieces dried citrus peel
3 pieces
dried fruit (prunes, figs and/or apricots, say)
4cm piece vanilla pod

For the mulled wine
350ml orange juice, or water
tbsp honey, maple syrup or sugar (optional)
2 x 750ml bottles
red wine
50-100ml spirit – brandy, whisk or gin (optional)

To make the mulled wine pouch, put a combination of all the ingredients in the centre of a piece of cheesecloth or muslin, then tie up neatly to seal, so it looks a bit like an old money bag; note that all the ingredients are optional, so adjust the quantities to suit your own taste.

To make the mulled wine, pour the orange juice (or water) into a small saucepan and add the honey, maple syrup or sugar, if using, to taste. Drop the mulled wine pouch into the pan, then bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and cook, stirring, for five minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat the red wine to just below simmering point. Pour in the mixture from the mulling pot and, if you like, spike with your spirit of choice. Keep the mix warm over a low heat and serve.