Last evening, I took a stroll just after sunset – the air, crisp and cool, with just enough bite to chill the tips of my exposed earlobes. As the leaves crunched under my boots, a wood burning fire cut the night with its rich, smoky scent. Autumn is one of my favourite times of the year.
It cools off just enough, before the heavy blankets of snow arrive, covering the once green grass of summer past and the bare skeleton-like tree branches. I was looking forward to returning to my home and warm up with a hot mug of steaming mulled cider, which I had prepared late in the afternoon.
Doesn’t that just tweak your Autumn sentiments? Log fires, warm stews and hot cider. I’m going to share with you my tips for making the perfect batch of this heartwarming beverage.
Begin With a Good Quality Cider
The best cider is usually found at your local farmer’s market or you can get it delivered to your door through craftynectar.com. Occasionally, farms with apple orchards may sell their fresh pressed cider right on-site. If you cannot get to a farm, or a farmer’s market, your local grocer should have some in the fresh food section. It’s usually separate from the artificial juices, so look near the produce aisle. The cider should be a medium brown color and cloudy. The cloudiness indicates the juice hasn’t undergone the filtering process, leaving the rich apple flavour pulp in the juice.
Add Your Own Mulling Spices
Skip the commercially available brands and go straight for the good stuff: whole spices in the spice aisle. Many upscale grocers or specialty markets carry whole spices. If you have an Indian or Asian market nearby, it may be worth the trip and pick up the spices there.
Everyone’s pallet is different, so you have to take into account how you’d like your cider to taste. Spices to consider include: cinnamon, allspice, clove, cardamom, coriander, and star anise (more on these in a minute).
Toast Your Spice Choices
To bring out the best flavour of your spices, simply add some to a medium-sized skillet set over a medium heat. Place the spices in the pan, stirring until the smells waft up, giving each a slightly smoky flavor. Toasting enriches the scent and flavor and extracts the oils, creating a bold taste combination.
The spices I mentioned above pair well with the apple cider:
- Cinnamon- a whole cinnamon stick (or two) is best. Cinnamon adds a spicy, sugary flavor that pairs perfectly with apples.
- Allspice-this tastes like a combination of ginger and nutmeg, with a spicy undertone of cinnamon.
- Clove-is known for its sweet, aromatic taste and smell of fresh baked gingerbread
- Cardamom-it’s a seed with smoky and mint flavours, perfect for a cider
- Coriander-is light and sweet, with orange-citrus and curry flavours
Star Anise-be careful with this one! You only need one or two, especially if you are toasting them whole. They contain a strong black licorice flavour
You can mix and match spices to your personal preference. These are just my personal suggestions.
Add Your Favourite Adult Beverage
Since I make mulled cider for the whole family, I add my choice to my own personal mug. It’s not necessary, but sometimes it gives your cider just a kick, adding another layer of flavour. I enjoy adding a high quality bourbon or apple brandy for that finishing touch. A tablespoon is all I use, but adjust according to your personal preference.
Put Them All Together
I prefer to mull my cider for hours. Add the cider and toasted spices to a crock-pot or slow cooker for at least 2-3 hours on low. If you don’t have a crock-pot, a heavy pan or Dutch oven set over low heat on the stovetop will do. Just watch it closely to prevent scalding. If you have a heat diffuser, this helps mull the cider evenly.
When you are ready, ladle hot steamy portions into your favourite warm mug. Be careful! Leave the whole spices behind. If you are worried about pieces ending up in your cup, you can always strain the cider prior to enjoying. Then sit back by a warm fire, put your feet up, and savour your cider. Yum!
The Perfect Mulled Cider Recipe:
“It’s not hard to make this from scratch, just pick up a few bottles of decent scrumpy and give this a try. ”
Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Incredible Mulled Cider
- 2 litres good-quality traditional cider
- 6 cloves
- 3-4 star anise
- ¼ nutmeg , finely grated into the pan
- 6 Pods of Cardamon
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 vanilla pod , halved
- 1 orange , juice of
- 2 clementines , juice of
- 1 pomegranate , juice and seeds of
- 4–5 tablespoons caster sugar
- 1 Tablespoon 40% Proof Apple Brandy
Here’s a link to a another delicious Mulled Cider Recipe. Cheers!