Fall is hands-down my favorite season, and the one I miss the most living in Phoenix. There is nothing better than the feel of the crisp air, the mild scent of firewood as people starting using their fireplaces, the sight of bright colorful pops of red, yellow and orange leaves on the trees, and the taste of spiced cider and pumpkin bread.
Since Phoenix still has temperatures in the 80s and 90s and green trees in the fall, I resort to taste to fill my autumn needs. Taste is a very powerful thing. There is a scene in the Pixar film “Ratatouille” where the menacing food critic takes a bite of ratatouille and is whisked away to memories of sitting at his mother’s farmhouse table. Upon opening his eyes, he smiles, and wolfs down the rest of the dish. This is how mulled beverages and pumpkin spiced baked goods work for me. One taste and I am transported back to Halloweens of my childhood in Ohio,eating caramel apples and watching “Monster Squad” with my good friend Ryan.
Last fall, The Wilderness Girls took our first trip to Flagstaff to get a taste of the season we all miss. My culinary contribution was mulled cider. I used basic William’s Sonoma mulling spices and simmered them with cider until the flavors were infused. The girls loved it and requested that this year we upgrade to mulled wine. That left me with the task of finding a recipe, and so I thought it would be fun to share this recipe with you.
I am going to show you two methods of mulling wine – a super fancy-pants version from Bon Appétit, that would be perfect for a very special occasion, and an easy version using premade mulling spices, perfect for the crazy busy schedule that most of us have during the holidays.
Let’s start with the Bon Appétit version.
Bon Appétit Mulled Wine
10 whole cloves
1 tangerine, clementine, or small orange
1 750-ml bottle of Merlot (use your favorite brand – I used Coppola Merlot)
1 1/2 cups fresh apple cider (or you can use the store-bought cider, like I did)
4 Pink Lady apples (optional)
1 cinnamon stick plus 6 for garnish (optional)
1 green cardamom pod, cracked
1 cup tawny Port (I used Fonseca Bin 27 Tawny Port, available at Safeway/Total Wine)
Press stem (pointed) end of 5 cloves into the tangerine, piercing through the skin. Place tangerine, wine, cider, Lady apples (if using), cinnamon stick, and cardamom pod in a large pot. Bring to a bare simmer over medium-low heat; cook gently for 20 minutes.
Mulled wine can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature. Rewarm gently over medium-low heat before continuing.
Stir in Port. Divide among six glasses; garnish each with a cinnamon stick and a Lady apple, if desired.
The result was delicious! Don’t have the time to tackle the Bon Appétit version? Don’t worry! You can make mulled wine using premade mulling spices and a diffuser (a mulling diffuser is different from a small tea diffuser, but a tea diffuser will work just fine).
Simple Mulled Wine
2 tablespoons mulling spices
1/3 cup granulated sugar
6 cinnamon sticks
1 750-ml bottle of Merlot (use your favorite, but again, I used Coppola Merlot)
6 orange slices for garnish (optional)
Take two tablespoons of the mulling spices and place them in the diffuser (or you could use cheesecloth and tie it at the top so the spices don’t fall out) and close the diffuser. Put a 750-ml bottle of the Merlot of your choice, and 1/3 cup of sugar in a large pot, put the diffuser into the pot, bring to a slow simmer over medium-low heat, and let simmer for 20 minutes.
Ladle the wine into four to six mugs, garnish with a cinnamon stick and orange slice, and you are done!
Below are some vendors online where you can find mulling spices and a diffuser:
Williams-Sonoma Mulling Spice
SpiceCubed Mulling Spice Tin
Morton & Bassett Mulling Spice
Penzeys Spices Mulilng Spice
World Market The Spice Hunter Mulling Spice Balls (the bonus to this one is that it has the spices already in the cheesecloth, so no diffuser is needed)
You could also use cheesecloth, available at most grocery stores, and tie the spices with kitchen string. Most tea shops also have diffuser balls, so that is also an option (just make sure it’s stainless steel).
So, there you have it, two fantastic recipes that will get you in the spirit of the season. I am looking forward to making this for Christie, Christina and Rachael at our 2013 Fall Foliage trip.
What is your favorite taste of fall? Let me know in the comments below.
The olive wood board featured in the photo above is from local vendor Arizona Olive Wood.