Two 750-milliliter bottles (or the equivalent) fruity red wine, such as
Zinfandel or Merlot
Zest strips from 1 orange
1 1/2 cups muscovado sugar or other dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons black peppercorns, lightly crushed
One 3-inch cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed
Put the peppercorns, fennel seeds and cinnamon in a large tea ball or wrap them in cheesecloth and secure them with kitchen string. In a large saucepan, combine the aromatics with the wine, bay leaves and orange zest. Cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the aromatics and orange zest strips. Stir in the sugar until dissolved. Serve warm, in glasses or mugs.
Once cooled, the mulled wine can be poured into a pitcher and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat gently.