October 15, 2013

Gifts from the Kitchen: Mulling Spices

I may or may not have gone into a panic this weekend when I realized that Thanksgiving was just over a month away. My Inlaws are coming to see us which is really exciting-although it's their first visit to Oklahoma so I'm hoping the state cooperates and gives us those beautiful misty mornings and clear, crisp afternoons that we get in the fall. If we could at least avoid a massive dust storm that would be a start...I'd like them to come back after all!

In the midst of putting all the relevant visit dates on my calendar I was giddily thinking about all the recipes I want to test drive before the big meal. Then it occurred to me that I could send the family's Christmas presents back east when they fly home. I started counting the weeks...and let's not think about just how much planning it's going to take me to have all my shopping done by then. Somehow I think I'll still be standing in line at the post office in December.

Since we live so far from family we spend a lot of time in line at the Post Office (or desperately searching for things on Amazon so we can use our Prime shipping to get it there in time!) and I realized that we aren't the only ones doing that. So I'm going to make sure there are at least a few gifts that ship well in this series. Things you can package in mason jars are always a good start since they seal tightly and you can bubble wrap to keep the glass safe. As a veteran of sending cookies and other baked goods in deployment care packages, let me just remind you that bubble wrap is your best friend in shipping food gifts! Oh, and not all cookies are created equal in terms of shipping. Save those for local friends!

That's where gifts like the pancake mix from last week or these mulling spices come in. You don't have to worry about spoilage or breakage during shipping, and you know they will taste just as good when the recipient makes them as the day you put it all together.

Mulling spices are classic holiday fare but it's so ridiculously easy to make your own. Since the combination changes slightly in each recipe, you can use the one below as a starting point. You can even multiply the recipe and make a big batch of mulled cider in a slow cooker or on the stove top. A splash of bourbon or rum would be a nice touch at the end of the day. Experiment a little bit with the spices if you want-this recipe is so adaptable!

Mulling Spice Sachets
adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients for each sachet
1/2 of one cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2 cardamom pods
4 black peppercorns
1/2 tsp cloves
Cheesecloth squares (or empty loose leaf tea bag)

Combine ingredients in a square of cheesecloth. Gather corners and tie top to create the sachet.

Direction for Mulled Cider: Steep for 3-5 minutes in mug of hot apple cider.

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