Mulled wine is a traditional Christmas drink and the scents of the spices conjure up the scent of Christmas. In fact the combination of oranges and cloves instantly magics up Christmas for me at any time of the year.
However, Duncan Napier, our founder, was a teetotaller. He was brought up by adoptive parents who ran a pub and had fared badly at the hands of his alcoholic step-mother. In the Victorian times, even children drank small beer and he was addicted by his early teens. A kindly mentor took him under his wing and he gave up alcohol completely at the grand old age of 15 years old. As we make up our mulled wine recipe (below) we reflect on the benefits and hazards of alcohol and other mulled wine ingredients.
750 ml (1 bottle) red wine
1 litre of unfiltered apple juice
4 whole cloves
3 star anise
2 long cinnamon sticks
Zest and juice of 1 orange
Orange peel to decorate
Put all of the ingredients into a large saucepan or preserving pan. Heat until the liquid is hot but not boiling. Turn off the heat, keep covered and leave over night to infuse. The longer it infuses, the more the flavour and spiciness develops. On the day of serving, heat to a comfortable temperature and serve from a large tureen with a ladle for each cup.
Alcohol is found naturally in nature and has been made by man for millennia. Drunk in excess, it is not good for you and can lead to all sorts of health problems. However, there are some health benefits when certain types of alcohol are drunk in moderation. 'Moderation' means no more than 1 glass a day, or perhaps two if you are a man. Red wine contains antioxidants like resveratrol which contains some surprising health benefits - like supporting our longevity genes, increasing HDL 'good' cholesterol, helping to reduce stress levels and increase creativity. The key is not to drink too much. If you do like to drink, consider having a break from all alcohol at least one day out of every three days.
Apples contain a whole host of vitamins, flavonoids and other health boosting phytonutrients. A study released in 2013 demonstrated that just eating one more apple a day can dramatically reduce your risk of heart disease. So 'an apple a day, keeps the doctor away" is not without foundation!
Cloves are antimicrobial. Commonly used to treat toothaches where they help to anaesthetise the pain as well as providing an antiseptic effect. The key pain-relieving compound is called eugenol but it also has gallic acid, methyl salicate and quercetin which all add to the pain-relieving effect. Certainly, if I was in pain, I'd add some powdered cloves to my herbal tea. In winter medicines they also help the body to fight germs and microbes, and they also help the body to use insulin more effectively which in truns helps to regulate blood sugar.
Cinnamon's main use in herbal medicine is to help lower and control your blood glucose levels. While many spices have this effect, cinnamon is one of the most potent blood sugar regulators. This means that cinnamon is particularly good for diabetics and helps to counteract the effects of sucrose or glucose-rich foods. Cinnamon, like many of the other spices, also has pain relieving properties. Follow this link for our Cinnamon Ointment recipe for a pain relieving ointment. More about cinnamon and how to buy it here.
Full of vitamin C, oranges not only taste good but are good for you too. As well as vitamin C they a good source of B vitamins including vitamin B1, pantothenic acid, and folate as well as vitamin A, calcium, copper, and potassium. They are also a good source of fibre.