A few weeks ago, during the first ‘frost warnings’ of the season, the idea of making homemade apple cider popped into my head and would not leave. It was definitely the cold weather seeping into my brain.
Twelve pounds of apples and a couple hours later, I realized a couple of things…
First, 12lbs of apples only makes maybe 1 gallon of cider once you strain and simmer it, otherwise you have something much closer to apple juice than the apple cider most people would be familiar with…
And second, it’s much less expensive to buy fresh apple cider, even organic cider, than to make it yourself. (Unless you’re going the bulk route with a cider press and/or a steam juicer.)
Now, this doesn’t mean that those who are slightly insane and like to experiment shouldn’t try making cider at home, not to mention it would be a very fun project to do with kids. The results are quite tasty, however I don’t think it’s something I’ll be repeating in the near future.
But that brings me to something that should be made at home, whenever possible, and makes cider (or wine) far more delicious.
See, when I mentioned that I was making homemade apple cider, it was recommended that I should make mulled cider, not just plain, and I was sent a link to some kind of powdery substance that claimed to be “spices”. I’m certain the person meant well, but the ingredient list looked like this: Sugar, Dextrose, Extractives of Cinnamon, Clove, Orange, Nutmeg, Caramel Color.
Mind you, there are plenty of places that sell real mulling spices, but real or scary powder, it’s always best to make your own spice mix as long as you have access to a store with a bulk spices/measure your own section.
So instead of spending $8 on the 5.5oz of scary (or $11 for 6oz of pre-mixed real spice), I grabbed my keys and headed out to Whole Foods’ spice aisle…
For the same $8, I brought home about 8oz of fresh, whole spices, which is enough for use for at least 10 gallons of cider.
About five minutes later, a selection of those same spices was wrapped in cheesecloth and dropped into a pot of the homemade cider.
Thirty minutes after that, I had a wonderful mulled cider that smelled and tasted like warm apple pie.
Inexpensive, absolutely delicious and what I’ll be drinking through winter and probably well into spring.
The same mix would work beautifully on a good red wine as well, I’ll be trying that shortly.
Mulled Apple Cider
- 1 gallon fresh apple cider
- and ANY combination of the following:
- 1-2, 4″ sticks of cinnamon
- 1 whole nutmeg, cracked
- 5 whole cardamon pods
- 2 tsp whole cloves
- 2 tsp whole allspice
- 1 1″ chunk crystallized ginger, sliced
- 2 tsp dried orange peel
- 1-2 whole star anise
- cheesecloth & twine or spice bags
Step 1: Pour the gallon of cider into a large pot and set it to medium-high heat. If you want to experiment, make your own apple cider. Decent instructions that do not require a cider press or steam juicer can be found here (I am a link, click me).
Step 2: Prep your spices:
- Using kitchen shears or a sharp knife, crack the whole nutmeg into 3-4 smaller pieces.
- Use the back of a spoon to lightly crack the clove, allspice and cardamon.
- Place spices into spice bag or a piece of tripled cheesecloth and seal it. (I used strip of cheesecloth that was 12″x4″ and folded it so that it was 4″x4″.)
- If using cheesecloth, gather it up by the four corners and tie it securely with twine.
- The cinnamon sticks can be dropped on their own or cut up and added to the spice bag, your choice.
Step 3: Place the bag of mulling spices into the pot of cider that’s been heating for the last five minutes and bring it to a simmer. Allow to simmer for at least 30 minutes, occasionally stirring to agitate the spices.
The longer you simmer, the spicier it will be.
Step 4: Serve! Garnish with cinnamon sticks (or a dash of powdered cinnamon) and/or small slices of crystallized ginger if you prefer. (Orange slices are also an option.)
Yield: 8, 16 oz mugs of warm apple cider
- If you can not locate any of the above spices in their whole form, use 1 tsp of the ground variety per spice in their place.
- The spices are interchangeable as are the amounts. Smaller batch? Use less! Want stronger spice flavors? Use more! Omit what you don’t want, include what you do. The flavor mix is all about what you prefer. I don’t use orange peel, simply because I like the spice flavor without any citrus overtones.
- Fresh ginger works as well as crystallized, though it does have a much sharper taste.
- Spice bags can be found at many specialty stores, or can be purchased here (link), they are reusable (as is cheesecloth). Wash them.
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