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). 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.}?>
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||heat||dissolve||simmer 30 min.||strain|
|1 cinnamon stick||toast|
|20 whole black peppercorns|
|3 whole cloves|
|1 to 2 Tbs. brown sugar|
|zest from 1/2 lemon|