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There's just something about scent.
It's amazing how scent and memory are so absolutely interlocked. Have you ever had a scent transport you to a long-forgotten place or memory?
A certain deodorant transports me to a cobble-lined street in Brazil. A certain cologne reminds me of my first kiss. Vanilla air freshener makes my husband's hands instinctively clench as a particularly harrying ride home he had one winter day with a college friend flashes in front of his eyes.
Sometimes though, it's not a specific, snapshot memory that is conveyed – it's an entire catalog of emotional memory.
And that's the case with mulling spices.
Somehow the winter scent of mulling spices conjures up the warm, comforting memory of precious time with family and friends: those lingering conversations after holiday feasts, laughter-filled evenings curled up with board games and mulled wine, and most of all, the comfort of being with people I love deeply and whose presence I cherish.
No matter where I go, the scent of mulling spices transports me to those people, those places, and those cherished traditions. Like Maya Angelou once said:
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” –Maya Angelou
Mulling spices are an easy way to infuse pretty much anything with those homey scents – everything from wine and apple cider to slow cooker pork or even just as potpourri to fill your home with cheer.
But this time of year, while mulling spices are readily available at any grocer, they're expensive.
Making homemade mulling spices, however, is relatively inexpensive, and you can adapt the spices to make it just the way you like.
Below is my favorite blend, but you could also add whole cardamom pods, star anise, or black peppercorns for more delightful aromas. See our recipes for Christmas Potpourri and Glögg, Swedish mulled wine done right for additional inspiration. 🙂
Also, a jar or sachet of homemade mulling spices makes a spectacular gift. Package up your favorite blend to give to friends, neighbors, your child's teachers – anyone you want to shower with love this holiday. It's a great gift for children to make themselves as well – you lay out the ingredients and they can measure, stir, and package according to their ability.
- 15 cinnamon sticks, crushed into chips (I just use a rolling pin)
- 4 tablespoons whole cloves
- 4 tablespoons whole allspice
- 2 medium oranges, sliced, dehydrated, and the rind chopped into bits (see how to dehydrate oranges here or purchase dried, chopped orange peel here)
- add whole cardamom, star anise, peppercorns of any color, or other spices as desired
- Crush the cinnamon and place in a medium mixing bowl.
- Add the cloves, allspice, and dried orange peel, then toss the mixture with your hands until well mixed.
- Spoon into gift jars or an air-tight container for long-term use.
- Use within one year for best results, but as long as the orange peel is fully dry, the mixture can be stored indefinitely.