Mulling Spice Blend + How to use it

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I stopped into our local wine shop a while ago and was welcomed by the warm wintery smell of baking spices.  Things got even better when I was handed a glass of mulled red wine.  It's the perfect hot holiday drink.  Whether you decide to use cider or red wine, everything can be tossed into a slow cooker and left alone until ready to serve.  Using the slow cooker means you have one more burner free on the stove, which if your holiday get-togethers are anything like ours: you need it.   

Serves 4.  

Mulling Spice Blend

2 cinnamon sticks

1/2 of one whole nutmeg

8 green cardamom pods

8 allspice berries

8 cloves

4 cups apple cider or red wine

zest of 1/2 orange

In a small skillet, toast cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, cardamom pods, allspice berries and cloves over medium heat for about 2 minutes or until fragrant.  Lightly crush spices.  Place crushed spices in a tea infuser, tea bag or cheese cloth.  

In a small pot over low heat or in a slow cooker heat apple cider or wine, spice bundle and orange zest.  Heat 20 to 30 minutes and do not boil.  Remove spice bundle and zest, straining if needed.  Serve warm.