Monday, November 21, 2011

Of Apple Cider

One of the many reasons I love autumn is it's finally cool enough to enjoy a mug of sweet, spicy apple cider. On rainy Saturdays at home, we might have a small saucepan of it simmering on the stove. We serve it at our pumpkin carving party, Thanksgiving and any other holiday gathering we host.

When we make cider for a crowd, we use our slow cooker. It works beautifully! It leaves the stove burners free for other cooking, and it keeps the cider warm all day. We like to use mulling spices to season the cider (Penzey's are my favorite!); they add a depth of flavor that we love. To keep the spices from floating in the beverage and an unsuspecting guest from swallowing them, we put them in a stainless-steel tea ball. (And although that is my preferred method, you don't need mulling spices to make great cider. When visiting family one Christmas, we simmered a couple of cinnamon sticks and a few thin strips of orange peel with the apple juice, which made a very appealing drink.)

For something a little bit more elaborate, try the variation. Long before Starbucks was known to us, my mom was making Apple Pie Cider during the holidays. I'm not sure where the idea or recipe came from perhaps a magazine or perhaps Mom's own ingenuity and taste for good food. Topped with freshly whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg (or both!), it may be the coziest thing you drink all season.

Apple Cider for a Crowd
Scant 1 T. mulling spices
2 cinnamon sticks
2 (48 oz) bottles apple juice, preferably unfiltered

Place mulling spices in a stainless-steel tea ball, or tie up in a bit of cheesecloth. Add the mulling spices and cinnamon sticks to a 4-quart slow cooker. Pour in apple juice. Heat on HIGH until it reaches the desired temperature*, then set to "Keep Warm," if available, or LOW.

Variation: Apple Pie Cider
Prepare cider as above. To each mug of cider, add 1/2 oz. (or to taste) caramel drink syrup, such as Torani. Top with whipped cream. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon and/or ground nutmeg, if desired.

*We've never timed it, but I would estimate 30 minutes to an hour.

Thanks to my husband for taking today's photo!

Copyright 2011

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