Mulled Cider

This is simple enough to be more of a procedure than a recipe,
but since I’ve seen people spend a lot more time and money for
less good results, I’m going to tell you about it anyway.

I do this pretty much any time in the winter that I’m having
people over. You have to be able to buy cider without
preservatives. For this purpose, pasteurization doesn’t matter,
but I’m sure the preservatives make a difference in the flavor,
and they aren’t at all necessary.

I always use the crock pot, because having the drinks out of my
(small) kitchen is a good idea if I’m also doing any kind of
cooking. But if you have the right traffic path, you can
certainly use a large pot on the stove.

Then you need something like a tea ball or a small cloth bag or
just a handkerchief or other cloth. Put all the whole
spices in your cabinet into the center of the handkerchief or
other receptacle and close it. (In the case of the
handkerchief, you tie the opposite corners together.)

I think you should buy cinnamon sticks for this purpose if you
don’t have them. Otherwise, use whatever you have. Some possibilities:

  • The little
    slivers of nutmeg that you can’t grate any more on the grater
    without grating your fingers, too.
  • Cloves
  • Whole allspice
  • Cardamom. (Take the seeds out of the pod, if you have the
    pods.)
  • Star Anise

Put the cider and the spice ball or bag into your chosen pot.
Bring to a boil and turn down to a very low simmer. If you do
this before the guests arrive, you can offer them hot cider when
they get there. They will appreciate this if it’s a cold day.
Otherwise, have it with dessert.

There are people who will sell you official cider mulling
spices, and if you don’t have any of the above items in your
cupboard and can’t think of anything you want to do with them
except make mulled cider, that makes sense. But if you put
cloves in ham or star anise in pork or fresh ground nutmeg in
anything, you don’t need the mulling spices too.

For some reason most of the recipes add sweetener, but I’ve
never seen any necessity for it. Maybe they used to make cider
with less sweet apples, and the recipe writer haven’t noticed
that plain cider is plenty sweet enough now.

If you’re thinking about one-ingredient hard cider, this is the
wrong way to go about it. After the boil and simmer, the cider
doesn’t ferment anything like as fast as the stuff straight from
the store does.

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