Well, its November. It's cold and rainy and we elected Barack Obama to be our president (way to go us)! How could things be better? In the spirit of November-- which we will associate with Thanksgiving dinners, turkeys, sweet potato's and apples (trust me, we will)-- obviously its also time for mulling spices! I am a bit addicted to apple cider I have to admit. I blame this on the fact that good apple cider is only available this time of year (not all the time) and that I live in "the apple state" so I get the really good stuff. My favorite way to enjoy it is hot(!) with spices. I heat the cider in a pan on the stovetop, and usually confine the spices in a tea-ball while the brew steeps. You can also add mulling spices to wine, but I find it a little to harsh for my tastes. Maybe I just don't think wine should be hot.
There are many recipes for mulling spices, I admit I have never actually looked up a recipe simply looked in a can of spices I got from a store and made my own. But I also have a few ideas on how to mix things up a bit.
Traditional mulling spices:
1 oz Cinnamon sticks, Cinnamomum spp.
1 oz Clove, Syzygium aromaticum
1 oz Allspice berries, Pimenta dioica
1 oz Orange peel, Citrus sinensis
I also add 3 drops of sweet orange essential oil which I find gives it a nice punch. But this recipe works just fine without.
Pretty much, you just need to pour all these ingredients into a bowl, with the exception of the cinnamon which needs to be broken from sticks into smaller chunks first. Add about 1 tablespoon per four cups of cider, if you want the spices to last longer you can use less and let it boil longer. Also you can crack open the allspice berries before you boil them to release more essential oils, but do this right before you boil it. If you crack them open and them let them sit in the tin all winter they will lose flavor.
You can vary this recipe in a few ways.
Add Cayenne powder, Capsicum anuum (a little goes a LONG way so be cautious, I would only add about a 1/8 teaspoon to a 4oz batch)
Nutmeg, ground, Myristca spp. (same rule applies--nutmeg is always a low dose spice it can be harmful above a teaspoon serving, so keep it to a 1/8 teaspoon per 4oz batch)
Substitute or add lemon peel
Add small chunks of ginger root, Zingiber officinale
Feel free to experiment however you like but keep in mind the kinds of plants I am using here! You are going to boil this in a pan with apple cider so leafy herbs are not what we are looking for. Most leafy herbs are slightly bitter, but these spices are chock full of essential oils and resins which is what gives them such a potent bundle of flavor. Cinnamon is a bark, allspice is a dried berry, clove is a dried flower bud, cayenne is a dried pepper, ginger is a root, nutmeg is a nutshell, etc.
Mulling spices aren't merely for the sake of flavor. No, no! These spices can aid you in other ways. That cup of mulled cider or wine after dinner is actually helping you keep warm and digest that fatty dinner you just ate. That warm fuzzy feeling you get when drinking mulled cider or wine isn't just because it tastes good.
Cinnamon increases circulation, aides in digestion and helps your body assimilate sugars. It is currently being studied for use with diabetics and having positive results. A teaspoon of cinnamon a day for diabetics has been shown to be beneficial.
Orange peel, allspice, nutmeg and cloves are all very good digestives. They are also all aromatic and stimulating.
Ginger is a circulatory stimulant and powerful anti emetic (keeps you from throwing up). It is warming and spicy and specific to the throat, add this to your mulling spices when you have a sore throat.
Cayenne is a powerful circulation stimulant and is very warming. Like I said before, a little goes a long way.
I think you see the theme by now. This drink is for increasing circulation and digestion. Perfect for winter and after eating fat rich meals. So go get out some spices and whip up a batch. I just know you wont regret it.