Sunday, October 18, 2015

Hot Mulled Cider From The Slow Cooker

It's that time of year when the mornings are crisp, and the night is cold and dark, our fireplace gets a workout, and I begin to crave hot mulled cider by the gallon.  Any hot drink on a cold day can be a good thing, but cider is a special favorite in the fall.

A lot of times, we'll just make it by the mug by adding a pinch of pumpkin pie spice to a mug of cider and heating it a bit in the microwave.  (1 1/2 to 2 minutes ought to do it on HIGH).

The best way, though, is to make a steaming crockpot full of deliciousness, so we can sip all day.  This is especially great if you have company coming over:  your house is perfumed with the wafting scent of apples, spices, and a hint of citrus.  It is absolute heaven.

The key to good slow cooker mulled cider is to have your spices in a make-shift cheesecloth bag or tea ball that can be removed once full spice level has been reached.  If you leave the spices in past the time that your cider begins to taste yummy, it will get bitter and too strong with cinnamon, which is not where you want to go.

This is how we do ours:

We use Penzey's mulling spices.  It includes two kinds of cracked cinnamon, allspice berries, cloves, mace and a little cardamom, and gives a wonderful, spicy taste to the cider.  I tend to use a cheesecloth pouch that I make with a large rectangle of cheesecloth, gathered together into a little bundle, with the spices in the middle of it inside, then tied with a length of kitchen twine, long enough that I can dangle it over the side of the crockpot to pull out later.  A heaping tablespoon or so ought to be enough for a fairly large pot of cider.

I also add a couple cinnamon sticks as well, and just fish those out with the ladle once things are spicy enough.

To that, I add a gallon of cider, half a navel orange that has been sliced thin (I slice the other half to use as a garnish on the mugs, but you can slice it and add it to the pot if you like), and 1/4 cup brown sugar for an undertone of caramel sweetness.

That's it.  You turn it on LOW and let it simmer for a couple of hours, take out the spices and the citrus, and voila!  Instant gratification of the most tasty kind, and a minimal amount of work.

If you want to get really adventurous, add a splash of calvados or apple brandy, spiced rum or a little butterscotch schnapps to the hot cider.  Great for a treat after a long day of skiing...or just after a long day of anything when it is cold outside.


(Photo via Aya Padron.)

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