I held off fall for as long as I could, mostly because I hadn’t (and still haven’t!) gotten my fill of fresh tomatoes. Plus I don’t like to be cold. But I can’t deny it anymore – there’s a chill in the air, and the trees are looking absolutely beautiful. It’s time for cider.
I looked up a few recipes for mulled cider, and they were all basically the same. But the first recipe I made, Ina Garten’s, was too sweet and not spicy enough. The next time, I eliminated all of the orange juice and just added the peel without the juice. Dave and I agreed that it was still two orangey, so I cut down the amount of peel even more. I also increased all of the spices, plus added one that wasn’t in the original recipe – allspice, which was perfect with the cider.
Ina’s recipe says to simmer for just 5 to 10 minutes, which doesn’t seem like nearly enough time to extract much flavor from whole spices. Most of the reviewers said that they simmered the mixture for far longer, and I agree with them. I generally brought the cider to a hard simmer, then turned off the heat, covered it, and forgot about it for an hour or so. Then Dave would say “didn’t you make cider?” and I’d remember and be excited and drink some and love October.
Hot Mulled Cider (adapted from Ina Garten)
8 cups (½ gallon) pure apple juice or fresh apple cider
2 (2-inch) cinnamon sticks
4 whole cloves
2 star anise
6 allspice berries
2 strips orange zest, removed with vegetable peeler, each strip about 2 inches long by ½-inch wide, cleaned of any white pith
Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Turn off heat, cover, and let sit for 30 minutes. Pour into mugs, straining if desired, and serve.