Have you ever been enticed at a party by a wonderfully smelling mulled cider only to find that the taste was awfully bland or much too overpowering or filled with strange and unidentifiable flavors? I set out to come up with a formula for a mulled cider that had a clean, crisp taste with just the right mix of spices. Surprisingly, I found that by adding only five common ingredients, plain apple juice was transformed into the ultimate holiday beverage.
In the United States, apple juice and apple cider are almost exactly the same thing. Apple cider should not be confused with the products known as hard cider (which is a fermented product known to the rest of the world as "cider") or sparkling cider (a carbonated beverage made from apple juice concentrate). In fact, apple cider is a subcategory of apple juice. Apple cider is (supposed to be) the juice from apples produced by mechanical pressure. According to Wikipedia, apple cider is traditionally made from early-harvest apples and istherefore tangier than apple juice. In my experience and research, I haven't found any proof that this is true as a rule (although some brands will advertise that their cider is made from certain seasonal apples and prepared in a particular manner, I feel that these seem to be differentiating claims instead of applying to apple cider in general). Often, apple cider is associated with unfiltered apple juice, but you can find both unfiltered and filtered cider and juice labeled accordingly in the supermarket. In short, in the United States, there's really not much difference between apple juice and apple cider (speaking as a whole - some brands may differentiate their apple mixes to produce different flavors for their juices and ciders).
I like my mulled cider to be clear, so I generally use filtered apple juice or cider. I also use whole spices so they can be easily strained out before serving and don't leave a fine cloud or particulate matter and grit in my mulled cider. Some of the cider recipes that I've tried use coffee filters, the assembly of a bouquet garni, and other steps that I think are extra. This recipe uses a single pan, a strainer, and a zester or knife. I like it when it's simple.
To spice up one quart of apple juice, use one stick of cinnamon, about twenty whole black peppercorns, 3 whole cloves, and 2 tablespoons brown sugar. (The sugar quantity can be reduced down to one tablespoon, but I like it sweet.) In addition to these four ingredients, prepare some zest from a citrus fruit. In this example, I used the zest from half a Meyer lemon, but lemons, limes, and oranges all work perfectly. Use the zest from half a lemon, lime, or lemon-sized orange for each quart of apple juice. If you're using medium lemons, use about a third of the zest. Large oranges - use a quarter of the zest per quart of juice. [IMG]
Select a pot or pan large enough to hold all the apple juice. Toast the cinnamon, cloves, and peppercorns to bring out their distinct flavors and aromas. Do this by simply heating your pan over medium heat with the spices in the pan. Toss the spices in the pan occasionally to prevent burning. The spices should become very fragrant within a minute or two. [IMG]
Pour the apple juice into the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. When the apple juice gets warm, stir in the brown sugar so it fully dissolves. [IMG]
Once the apple juice is boiling, reduce the heat so it just simmers (small bubbles form and rise to the top in a steady rhythm, but not at a furious rate). Add the citrus zest at this time. We don't add the zest earlier because we don't want the brief hard boil to break up the zest to the point where we will have difficulty straining it. If you're careful, you can add the zest with the brown sugar and watch the temperature to bring the juice up to simmering but not to boiling.
Maintain the simmer for thirty minutes. I do this with the lid off because it's easier for me to keep it at a constant simmer this way.
Pour the mulled juice/cider through a fine mesh strainer and into the container of your choice. If your cider has a great deal of particulate matter, you may want to place a cheesecloth or coffee filter in your strainer (or sandwiched between two strainers) to filter out the fine particles. Serve hot. [IMG]
You can let the cider cool and then refrigerate for up to week. Bring it back up to a simmer before serving.
Mulled Cider (makes 4 cups)
1 quart apple cider or juice
simmer 30 min.
1 cinnamon stick
20 whole black peppercorns
3 whole cloves
1 to 2 Tbs. brown sugar
zest from 1/2 lemon
This recipe can be scaled buy simply scaling the ingredients. Leave the simmering time at thirty minutes.
Joined: 14 Oct 2005 Posts: 4 Location: Manchester, England
Posted: Thu Dec 15, 2005 2:38 pm Post subject: English Mulled Cider
It is an old tradition in england to have mulled cider at christmas, but we use what you call hard cider, and preferably a good scrumpy (cider fermented with beer yeast).
If anyone knows a good recipie for this type of mulled cider, or if this recipie works, I would be interested to know.
Posted: Sun Dec 18, 2005 8:29 pm Post subject: Apple Cider, Spiced Coffee
Here in Massachusetts, apple cider is definitely not apple juice. That aside, I'm going to try this recipe.
Recently I picked up a can of spiced coffee at a specialty shop. It smells great, but didn't come out so well in the pot. I think, though, that I will try adding this simple mixture of spices to the basket of ground coffee. I think just the clove and cinnamon will do the trick.
As always, an excellent recipe, nicely presented. My compliments. <and, yes, I'll definitely try it.> Also, in some parts of the US--my childhood in the East in the Thirties comes to mind--apple cider is definitely ~= apple juice. Best regards to all hands: Naf
I have never tried mulled cider, and this afternoon, whislt my two kids were home on college break, and the family was decorating the Christmas tree, I decided to give this recipe a GO.... it seemed like the right time.
I followed the recipe exactly as written, and my whole family loved it.
And quite frankly, I was amazed how much the cider was transformed.
One more note (having brewed this for my work commrades a second time), and the recipe should note this, though you start with 4 cups of cider/juice in this recipe, when you are finished with the simmering for 30 minutes, you are left with only a little over 2 cups... to the chagrin of the cook/engineer!
Note: This is a good thing however, because the simmering process (without a lid) is also a reductionism, which helps concentrate the apple juice flavor. The recipe results should be modified, however, to reflect the fact that you get closer to 20 ounces of the final brew, and not 48.
(I know... these are details.... but i am a SCIENTIST dammit!)
p.s. I also made the mistake of offering a small sample of this brew, from a hot thermos, to a co-worker, and i forgot to tell him it was boiling hot! He proceeded to gulp it down, and burned the taste buds off his tongue! He now talks with a lisp, and complains he can't taste food.
Joined: 10 May 2005 Posts: 1641 Location: Austin, TX (USA)
Posted: Wed Dec 21, 2005 7:35 am Post subject:
Hmmm... I only lost about half a cup during my simmer.
In my last batch, I used Tree Top apple juice and had to cut out a lot of the sugar because the juice started off really sweet to begin with. When using Tree Top, consider making the mulled cider without any added sugar.
Posted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 2:51 pm Post subject: Apple Cider vs. Juice
I am both an engineer and a partner in an orchard/cider operation. Commercially the main difference between the two products is filtering with juice frequently undergoing a concentrating/reconstituting operation. True cider is from fresh squeezed apples and has a fine sediment (shake well before drinking, that is very good stuff! Oxidation turns the product brown. This is objectionable to many supermarket weaned people hence the filtering/concentrating operations. This is perfectly fine for a commercial process product but we feel some of the apple is lost as do the comments from the readers from the northern apple growing states (I'm a displaced New Englander in Minnesota). Making mulled cider from juice (sometimes referred to as "cider" in supermarkets) is OK, I've done this many times myself. I especially like the idea of using zest (one of my favorite ingredients) and I would not have considered peppercorns. I will certainly give this a try and thanks!
I didn't realize a cider/beer yeast mix was called "scrumpy". We learned by accident that a beer/cider mix is quite good. We also make hard cider from our unpasteurized product.
Posted: Sun Dec 25, 2005 1:55 am Post subject: Real apple cider
"Normal" apple cider is just mediocre juice from mediocre apples. It has no complexity nor depth the way cider apples do. You deride "hard cider" because you don't know what a cider apple can do. Fermented and aged cider apple juice is complex and subtley flavored, unlike "koolaid" apple-juice-cider. Kids like it, but not mature adults who have a developed sense of taste.