Saturday, November 3, 2012

Spiced Apple Cider

Growing up, Christmas-time mean one thing: cider. Or more specifically, wassail, which would accompany the overflowing mountains of cookies on the holiday-time concert tables. (Being a child of a choir member, we always got any leftover cookies we wanted...it was understandably one of my favorite things.) But when I realized that I couldn't stomach hot chocolate on an empty stomach, apple cider evolved into one of the things that, for me, signals that fall has arrived.

Or at least, here, is arriving. October and November are notoriously volatile months weather-wise as we slip from our very pervasive summertime into a mild winter. This week was the perfect example: Monday was in the 50s, with our first true and crisp foray into sweater-weather, and by Friday it was well into the 80s once more. Oh well. Nonetheless, I took this as my sign that fall had arrived and whipped up a batch of spiced apple cider last night.
 
Spiced (or "mulled") cider is incredibly easy to make, as you just put everything into a pot and let it stew. It's even easier to personalize by tasting as you go and adjusting the strengths of the different flavors you enjoy most prominently. Here, I've listed the simple recipe I used and enjoy the most.

I used a 1.75 L jug of Zeigler's Organic Apple Cider that I happened to pick up at my local Whole Foods. Since this is such an odd size, I've included a range of quantities for ingredients, which I used the upper end of. I suggest putting in the smaller amount to start, then tasting and adding as you go along!

Ingredients:
  • 1 jug apple cider
  • juice of 1.5-2 lemons
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 5-7 whole cloves
  • 2 sticks of cinnamon
  • dash of ground nutmeg
  • 3-4 T honey (you may want to lessen or skip this if your cider is already sweetened)
Combine cider, lemon juice, lemon zest, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg in an appropriately sized pot. Bring up to a simmer, then allow to lightly simmer covered over medium-low heat. Stir in honey. Allow ingredients to stew, adding more as desired, for 1 hr-1 hr 30 minutes on heat, stirring periodically. Filter finished cider through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth, and place into a jar or jug for storing if not serving immediately. Cider may settle as it is less filtered than apple juice, so simply stir or shake before serving. Enjoy hot.

I like mine as-is or with a bit of almond milk and a splash of caramel syrup. Whipped cream can also make a great topping!

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