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Fall is beginning its mad rush toward winter, and the temperature is dropping. In some parts of the country, there’s snow on the ground this morning. I had to kick through several inches of it this morning. When it starting frosting and snowing, that means it’s time to stave off the cold with some hot spiced apple cider, a late fall staple.
Let’s talk cider: I’m spoiled because I live in apple country (Michigan). Some of the best apples in the country are grown around here, and locally made cider is for sale at countless roadside farmstands. Good cider is made from a mixture of sweet and tart apples and has a bit of a bite to it (though that is a matter of opinion). Don’t just grab a gallon from the local big box supermarket; take the time to get something fresh. You won’t regret it.
Now, about those mulling spices. When I was growing up, I hated mulled cider. You know why? The few times my mom made it, she dumped ground spices into the cider. Texture is important to me in both foods and beverages, and gritty hot cider just never cut it.
So how to avoid this issue, while still ensuring a properly spiced cider? Use whole spices! It’s actually a pretty simple fix. The only exception to this rule is the nutmeg; it pretty much has to be ground. Try putting it in an unfilled single-serving tea bag, a tea ball line with an unbleached coffee filter, or making an unbleached coffee filter into an envelope and tying it off with kitchen twine. A large (1-cup capacity) tea ball can be used for the whole spices, with the exception of the cinnamon, making straining that much easier.
You don’t have to go broke to expand your spice rack either. Find a local store that sells bulk spices. That way, instead of dropping $4-6 per spice for a glass jar, it’s possible can buy a single ounce in bulk packaging for a dollar or two. The spices are fresher, and it’s cheaper.
Note: Do not attempt to do this with bottled alcoholic cider, as the heating process could denature the alcohol.
- One gallon fresh apple cider
- Roughly 2 dozen cardamom pods
- Roughly a dozen whole cloves
- Roughly 3 dozen whole allspice berries
- 2-3 cinnamon sticks, depending on length and preference
- 2 oranges, washed with peel on, sliced
- 1-3 teaspoons ground nutmeg, tied in a coffee filter envelope or in a lined tea ball. Alternately, you can just sprinkle a dash on each mug when serving it.
- Brown sugar to taste
If you want to try something really unexpected and tasty, add a little ground ginger to the nutmeg package and a few whole peppercorns in the pot.
When it comes to mulling cider, I prefer to go big; I’ll dump a full gallon in a stockpot and set it on the stove. You can do the math and cut the spices down to single serving sizes, but no one ever drinks just one mug in my experience. Cook over low to medium heat so it doesn’t scorch. You don’t need it to boil, just to heat enough to give off steam and coax some flavor from the spices. Let it simmer for at least 10 minutes before serving, and strain the spices before you serve it.
Garnish the mugs with the cinnamon sticks and a slice of apple, and sip slowly to melt away any impending winter concerns. Those wishing to adult-ify their beverage can add a swig of rum or a few drop of cannabis tincture to the individual cups of brew while serving. Enjoy and stay warm!
For previous beverage recipes published on Ladybud, click here.
Photo Credit: Jeremy Tarling under (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Wikimedia Commons