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December 08, 2012
For the past three years, we've put on a Winter Wonderland event for our Cryfield and Redfern students, with Christmas music, plenty mulled wine and mince pies to get them into the festive spirit. Of course, the first year we ran this, I realised how gauche I was about how one went around making mulled wine. My previous experiences of making mulled wine consisted of using a cheap bottle of red wine and dropping one of those mulled wine sachets into it. You know the kind I'm talking about right? The schwartz mulled wine spice bag.
So, that first year, I was marshalled into the mulled wine making army. We were inside this tiny kitchen, mixing vast quantities of homemade mulled wine syrup with bottles and bottles of red wine, adding sugar and dropping oranges into stock pots. Passing vats of the stuff outside to the thirsty punters, without making too much a mess, proved one step too far. Cleanliness was sacrificed for speed. I'm not sure that the redfern subwarden's kitchen ever survived it.
It's an understatement to say that it was somewhat of a revelation on how to make mulled wine. But you know what? That mulled wine tasted sweetly spiced wine with the tanginess of oranges, more akin to glühwein, and far superior than my previous homemade mulled wine. And that was even when we were doing it in bulk! The experience revolutionised my approach to making mulled wine.
The following year, I volunteered to make the mulled wine. A bit of research and arithmetic later, I began to compose my email to our deputy warden and organise my mulled wine making team.
For the next few days, I couldn't quite get over the fact that I had ordered 50 bottles of wine!
Pinar and Rumana came round the evening before to make the mulled wine syrup with me, studding oranges with cloves, peeling lemons...
2 hours and plenty of chatter later, we produced about 7.5 litres of mulled wine syrup. Later that night, I got the calculator out again to work out the mulled wine syrup to wine ratio.
This is what happened on the night.
We had 47 bottles of red wine to mull and 2 hours to do it. I'd printed off the instructions in the morning and stuck it up on a cupboard.
For 500-550ml of mulled wine syrup, add 3 bottles of wine and 2 oranges. Heat it on a gentle heat so that all the alcohol doesn't burn off. Empty the pan and start again :)
Rumana and Jue took charge of the mulling of the wine, whilst the rest of us began putting up decorations and heating up the pies. They were super-efficient and had it all done before 7pm before our first punters arrived. Shortly after the event began, I nipped off to a friend's birthday party, confident that my job had been done.
I guess it's becoming a tradition now to make the mulled wine from scratch for this annual event because this year I find that I'm initiating the new Cryfield team recruits into the art of making mulled wine syrup for the masses. We follow the success of last year and make the syrup a few nights before. Sarah needs a plaster when her finger exchanges sharp words with a vegetable peeler and Rumana shows off her skill for removing citrus peel. Glugs of orange juice and red wine are added into the pans by Dan. The good old calculator comes out as I work out the amount of spices that's going into each stock pan and the ratio of syrup to wine when it comes to mulling.
But this time, it's all happening out of my Redfern kitchen and I'm in charge of organising the whole event. What a difference a year makes!
So there you have it. Mulled wine for 300. Rather simple with a bit of organisation, preparation and a team of hardworking, happy helpers.