Apple cider is perfect for gatherings with friends, family dinners, Christmas parties… or just about any cold winter night. It's naturally sweet, infused with cinnamon, cloves, and a hint of citrus from the oranges.
Apple cider is one of those drinks everyone loves. Even if someone tells you it’s not for them, put a giant crock pot full of warm apple cider near them during a cold month and they’ll be drinking it in no time.
I clearly remember the first time I served apple cider to Tanner (my husband). It was a few years back at a Christmas event where I was helping in the kitchen. The menu was rather elaborate, comprising of various appetizers, entrees, desserts, and fancy drinks. I was pretty confident that Tanner would go for hot chocolate or eggnog, but to my surprise he chose mulled apple cider... and then he raved about it for days!
I can't blame him. There's really something magical about the fragrant aroma of cinnamon wafting through the air. That feeling of warmth hitting just the right spot as you take a sip. The distinctly sweet apple taste ...
Tips for Making Apple Cider
In most parts of the world, apple cider is made with completely different apple varieties than those available at your local grocery store. Cider apples can be tart, tannic, or downright inedible in their natural form. However, they provide an incredible depth and complexity. The general rule is that you would never make a cider from supermarket apples in the same way you would never make wine from supermarket grapes.
However, American cider is a bit different. Unlike in Europe, producers in North American lack the hundred-year-old, cider-specific fruit trees available in France, Spain, or England. That means that the same varieties you see at your local grocery story - Baldwin, Cortland, Granny Smith, McIntosh - provide the base for most American cider today. Whether you're using cider apples or not, try to include a few varieties (sweet and tart) for a balanced flavor.
The next ingredient(s) are spices. Whole spices are better than ground because they provide better flavor and are easier to remove from the cider. Cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, or star anise all work together well to bring out the natural flavor of apples.
My favorite part about this apple cider recipe is the orange. It just looks so festive, and the tiny amount of orange juice that comes out imparts the most wonderful, heady flavors – both into your cider and in the air. I would recommend peeling the orange, since the peel can make your cider bitter.
If you'd like to add a sweetener, use any sweetener you like - powdered or liquid. I think that apple cider is plenty sweet on its own, so I don't add any.
You've got two options when it comes to making apple cider - use a press or a juicer. If you have neither, you can buy unpasteurized apple cider from the refrigerator section at the store.
If you'd like to extract the full flavor from whole spices, toast the spices first to excite their essential oils.
You can mull the cider at a low temperature for about four hours or simmer for about an hour, depending on your preference. If you have the time to mull your cider low and slow, an electric slow cooker is one of the best tools for the job. The cider will be cloudy at first due to fine apple particles in suspension. However, if you let it sit, the particles will settle down and the cider will become clearer (it will never be as clear as pasteurized apple juice though).
Tools You'll Need
1. Juicer(Omega J8006) | 2. Cookware Set(Calphalon, Stainless Steel) | 3. Knife Set(6 Pieces, Utopia, Stainless Steel) | 4. Cutting Board(24″x 18″, Michigan Maple Block, Maple)| 5. Mixing Bowls (Set of 3, Pyrex, Glass)
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Mulled Apple Cider
- 12 apples, cored and quartered*
- ½ apple, cored, optional
- 1 orange, peeled and sliced
- 1 (6-inch) cinnamon stick
- 7 cloves
- ½ star anise pod, optional
- Juice the apples first. Then transfer the juiced apples (cider) into a medium saucepan.
- If you'd like to extra the full flavor from the whole spices, toast them in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until fragrant. Set aside.
- Carefully insert the whole cloves into the half of an apple (this will make it easier to remove the cloves later). You can also use a spice bag, cheesecloth, or add the cloves to the cider loose.
- Add the half of an apple with cloves into the cider together with the orange slices, the cinnamon stick, and the star anise pod (if using). Bring the cider to a simmer over medium heat and simmer for an hour or mull for up to 4 hours.
- Remove the apple, orange, cinnamon stick, star anise, and any clove remnants from the pot.
- Serve the cider hot, plain or with a slice of orange/lemon.
*If you don't have a juicer, use store-bought non-alcoholic, non-sparkling apple cider instead (not apple juice).