Simple Scintillating Cider
Have you ever made fresh homemade cider? The scent fills my small home every time I make it. It is warm and inviting. It reminds me of Christmas with its cinnamon and nutmeg odors. Then it warms from the inside out and just leaves you with a good feeling. Mmmm. I can almost smell it now just writing this column.
Americans refer to unfiltered apple juice as apple cider and usually drink it hot with a cinnamon stick. Ask for cider in other parts of the world and you’ll get something far better: a drink as dry and bubbly as Champagne and as cold and refreshing as beer. When we drink it at all in North America, we call it hard cider to distinguish it from the nonalcoholic version, but such a distinction isn’t necessary elsewhere.
I’ll go into apple genetics fully in another apple related column, but I want to mention how unique the apple really is. When you grow an apple, they look nothing like the ‘parent’ apple. Apples display “extreme heterozygosity,” which means each cell has two different variants of the same gene-one being normal and one being mutated. The only way to reproduce an apple that you like is to graft a cultivar onto the rootstock of another tree. That is how we have actual named apples such as Honeycrisp, Red Delicious or Fiji. Otherwise, there would be no way to name them because they would all be different.
The best cider is made from apples known as ‘spitters’- apples so bitter your first reaction is to spit it out. Somewhere in the years of our history, our ancestors learned even fruit that didn’t taste well to eat could taste very good when fermented. While it is not known exactly how all that came to be, it is known the first written mention of cider was around 55 B.C. Romans invaded the British Isles and found the apple drink to be a favorite of locals. It soon spread through the Roman Empire and across Europe. Ciders made back in these days would have likely been from any fruit that didn’t taste well instead of just apples.
The recipes listed below don’t all include apples, but are delicious nonetheless. They are easy to make and easy to drink! They can also all be made in a slow cooker if you wish. Just place all ingredients in the slow cooker and heat on low for a couple hours until heated through. The pear cider may take longer due to the fresh pears but can still be done. These are some of my favorite cider recipes. Make your grocery list and meet me in the kitchen this weekend!
Warm Vanilla Cider
6 cups fresh apple cider 2 Tbsps. packed dark-brown sugar 2 whole nutmeg seeds 1 vanilla bean (split and scraped) ¾ cup bourbon, if desired Whipped cream Honeyed walnuts, optional
Combine apple cider, dark-brown sugar, nutmeg seeds, and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan. Gently simmer over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and add bourbon if desired. Remove and discard solids. Divide among mugs or heatproof glasses, and top each with a dollop of whipped cream and a few honeyed walnuts.
Recipe adapted from marthastewart.com .
Peach Spiced Cider
Want to try a different way to make cider try this recipe? This is made in the coffeepot! 3 cups peach juice 2 cups apple juice 4 orange slices, ¼ inch thick, cut in half 1 tsp chopped candied ginger, optional ½ tsp ground cinnamon ¼ tsp ground nutmeg Place peach juice and apple juice in water reservoir of coffee maker. Arrange orange slices loosely in paper filter in filter basket. Sprinkle remaining ingredients over oranges. Brew cider.
Recipe from adapted bettycrocker.com .
Caramel Apple Cider
8 cups apple cider or juice 1 cup caramel flavoring syrup, I used Torani brand. It can be found in the coffee aisle at Cox and sometimes Walmart. ¼ cup lemon juice 1 vanilla bean or 3 tsps. vanilla bean paste 2 cinnamon sticks (3 inches) 1 Tbsp. whole allspice Whipped cream, hot caramel ice cream topping and cinnamon sticks for serving, optional In a 3-qt. slow cooker, combine the apple cider, caramel syrup and lemon juice. Split vanilla bean and scrape seeds. Add seeds to cider mixture. Place the bean, cinnamon sticks and allspice on a double thickness of cheesecloth and bring up corners of cloth. Tie with string to form a bag and add to cider mixture. Cover and cook on low for 2-3 hours or until heated through. Discard spice bag. Pour cider into mugs and garnish with whipped cream, caramel topping and additional cinnamon sticks if desired.
Recipe adapted from Taste of Home Cookbook Slow Cooker Throughout the Year.
10 Pears, cut in half, stems and seeds removed ½ cup brown sugar 3 cinnamon sticks 2 tsps. ground allspice 1 tsp whole cloves 1 vanilla bean pod, split open, or 2 tsps. vanilla bean paste
Combine pears, sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves, vanilla pod and allspice in a large stock pot and cover with water. You want the water to be about 2 inches higher than the pears. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce it to a simmer and cook for 1 hour uncovered. After 1 hour, you can mash some of the pears (they will just fall apart). Cover the pot and simmer for another 2 hours. After 2 hours, let the mixture cool slightly. Strain it through a fine mesh sieve (I did so twice) to remove the solids. Some of the solids may remain. You can strain it through cheesecloth one more time before serving if desired. Serve hot with cinnamon sticks!
Recipe from howsweeteats.com .
Black Cherry Cider
2 cinnamon sticks 1 tsp allspice berry or 1/16 tsp ground allspice 1 tsp whole cloves 3 cups black cherry juice 1 cup apple cider 4 tsps. sugar 3 Tbsps. plain dried sour cherries (preferably unsweetened, with no oil added) Tie the cinnamon, allspice, and cloves in a cheesecloth bag and place in a medium saucepan. This is only necessary so you don’t have to strain the cider. Personally, I like the cinnamon sticks and don’t usually use the cheesecloth. Pour in the juice and cider and add the sugar and dried cherries. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Discard the spice bag and pour the cider into 4 mugs, spooning a few plumped cherries into each.
Recipe adapted from geniuskitchen.com .
Mulled Root Beer
This is honor of my nephews. I made Mulled Dr. Pepper this past weekend and they requested a root beer version.
1 2 liter bottle of root beer
¼ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup lemon juice
½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp whole cloves
¼ tsp salt
¼ ground nutmeg
3 cinnamon sticks (3 inches)
1 ½ cups water
Combine all ingredients in 3 quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 2 hours. You can discard the cloves and cinnamon at this point if desired. I leave mine in the slow cooker until the liquid is gone. It will just continue to spice it up as long as it’s in there.