I will never forget the first time I walked into my friends home and the enticing, warm aroma of spiced cider was wafting through the air. I was just a new mom and had never made it, but there it was on her stove bubbling away. And, it smelled so so so good! I vowed that day I would make that often in the fall and winter months, especially when people were coming over. It was like a warm welcome for my nose, and I wanted to offer the same kind of experience for my guests. And besides, how hard could it be? (That phrase is my trademark and has gotten me into more fixes than I share to count, but nonetheless is hardwired into my DNA.)
The first year I "made" this I went to the grocery store and just asked the guy stocking the shelves where they kept their mulling spices. "Say what," he said, "what kind of spices?" When I explained, he still didn't seem to get it and promptly directed me to the spice aisle.
I mosied on over to the produce department and asked the guy who was loading up the oranges, and he smiled and showed me right where they were, nice little neat packages of spices all sealed up in little muslin bags. I was tickled that it was so easy.
Then one year our winter weather came particularly early, and I went looking for these mulling spices a few months ahead of schedule. Nobody had them "yet", and I suddenly realized (uh huh slow on the uptake here) that I could just make these myself. How hard could it be? ;)
The only ingredients that you really need are cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, cardamom, allspice berries and dried orange peel. There are recipes all over the internet, so if you want to be more elaborate just add whatever other spices your heart desires. Have equal quantities for each spice, enough to fill up the small little muslin bags that you can find at the store. And, if you're going to go to the trouble to make one, you may as well make several at the same time. What lovely hostess gifts these would make around the holidays!
Crush the cinnamon in a coffee grinder or even with just the back of a heavy iron skillet. Fill your bags, and attach a cute little tag with perhaps some simple instructions on the back. Store them in zip locks backs in your spice drawer for a full season of warm spicey goodness!