… with bonus poached quinces!
Mulling syrup isn’t a complex idea, but it is a damn good one. Rather than heating a whole
cask bottle of wine with spices and sugar, you make up an infused syrup that can be added to individual mugs.
You could use any sweet syrup really, but there are essentials to a really satisfying mulled wine. You want something warming (spices), something sweet (fruit and sugar or honey), ideally some extra body, and some flavours that will complement the wine. Citrus and apple flavours are quite common and I’ve posted a recipe for mulling syrup once before, based on foraged cumquats. But winter citrus hasn’t arrived yet, and it’s getting cold, and I want mulled wine now.
Quinces are perfect candidates. Their scent can fill your kitchen for a good week before you use them up. A long, slow simmer brings out their rosy colour as well as the heady aroma that is so complementary to red wine. Bonus, their rich pectin content makes for a full-bodied syrup. Once you have collected that syrup, the quinces themselves are perfectly poached and ready to eat with Greek yoghurt or cream, or on top of your morning muesli.
- Three large quinces, washed, seeded and chopped (no need to peel them)
- 2 cups sugar
- Juice and zest of half a lemon
- Spices, as you like them: I used one cinnamon stick, half a vanilla bean (sliced open and seeded), one star anise, and ten black peppercorns.
Place the quince, sugar and lemon juice in a heavy pot with four cups of water. Reserve the lemon zest.
Bring the pot to the very gentlest of simmers and cover it; leave it alone for at least two hours. You are looking for a rosy pink colour and a gentle fragrance: stop before the fruit completely falls apart. In the last hour (ish) of cooking, add in your spices and the lemon zest.
Strain most of the liquid from the poached quinces, leaving them with a little to bathe in; you should yield around a half litre of mulling syrup and enough quinces to feed four for dessert. Heat around two tablespoons of syrup with a mug of wine, and vastly improve the next rainy day.
Mulling syrup will stay good for at least a month kept in a sealed bottle in the fridge. The poached quinces will keep for a week in the fridge and freeze well too.