Autumn is coming to a close, but those of us clinging to the last traces of golden crunchy leaves and cozy sweater weather have nothing to fear. The bright, cinnamon flavors of fall found in hot apple cider can carry every one of us through blustery winter weather. Take out the crock-pot or set the stove to simmer to create a bit of autumnal joy any time of year.
While creating your cup of happiness, remember to follow a recipe. Too much of a good thing can turn a delicious drink into a runny mess dripping with disappointment.
Most recipes will call for apple cider specifically instead of regular apple juice. Apple cider is thicker, doesn’t evaporate as fast and has more caramel flavor notes when warmed — all of which makes it the better choice for hot apple cider. Apple juice will work just fine in a pinch though, because it’s cider that has been filtered and had all of the coarse particles removed to make it brighter and clearer. It also makes it stay fresher a little longer. However, the recipe wants what the recipe wants, and it’s best to try to get the exact ingredients it calls for so there are no surprises.
You can also take this delectably simple drink a little further by adding a little spice — if the recipe doesn’t already include it. Some recipes include cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon or allspice. Others encourage the chef to use caramel or maple syrup. The natural sweetly tart nature of the apple’s flavor means that it can go sweet or more savory and still taste amazing. When working with any type of spice though, the best tip to crafting a culinary masterpiece is to use it sparingly. After mixing it in, taste the cider and add more spice if you think it’s necessary. Keep adding a little bit at a time until your warm apple cider meets all of your expectations. Braver souls can try a tasty homemade wassail — which is warm apple cider’s citrusy brother. Mixing a little bit of orange juice, tea and apple cider, this warm drink develops the flavors even further.
Try this recipe from BettyCrocker.com for hot spiced cider:
6 cups apple cider
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cinnamon sticks
In a 3-quart saucepan, heat ingredients to boiling over medium-high heat. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Before serving, strain cider mixture to remove cloves and cinnamon, if desired. Serve hot.
Or try this one from JulieAnn Caramels for Hot Caramel Wassail:
1 gallon apple cider
1 12 oz. can of fresh or frozen orange juice concentrate
3-4 cloves in a tea infuser/bag
4 cinnamon sticks
Place cider, juice and spices in a large pot or crock-pot and simmer on low for 30 minutes. Remove cloves and portion into cups. Stir 1 to 2 teaspoons caramel sauce into each cup. Makes about 30 servings.
The best part of warm apple cider or wassail, beside drinking these wonderful fall favorites, is that making either of them will make your home smell fantastic.