Fragrant spiced cider is winter’s antidote.
Mulling over what hot beverages to serve while the temperatures are bone-chilling? Perhaps you want something non-alcoholic but fitting for the season? Try making your own mulled cider, with or without spirits.
Let the warm, spicy fragrance emanate through your home as it simmers on the stove. No potpourri can match the scent, and you can actually sip this aromatic concoction.
Mulled cider found its way into popular culture first as a pagan tradition. Long ago, people would recite incantations in English orchards to assure a good harvest the following season, a custom called wassailing, named after an Old Norse phrase meaning “good health.” Another form of wassailing was going door to door in villages offering a mulled beverage made from apples and spices during the holidays.
Eventually, it morphed into the moniker of a beloved beverage we know today that is created from apples, citrus, and spices.
Some say the term mulled cider comes from the word “mull,” which means to think deeply and at length. Cider can simmer on the stove for hours as the flavors of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and other essences you desire infuse into the beverage.
Ferris-Bennett steeps cider with orange slices, a tea bag containing mulling spaces, and a spring of rosemary. She then pours it into a mug, topping it with whipped cream, a drizzle of caramel, and a candied orange slice before serving
While the apple cider itself imparts health benefits, fresh herbs and dried spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and rosemary are purported to have medicinal properties of their own, such as boosting circulation, reducing inflammation (thanks to antioxidants), and even improving cognitive function.
Sipping cider is more than just satisfying; it can be healthy, too.
Cynthia Ferris-Bennett of Genoa’s Sierra Chef adores the fragrance of mulled cider wafting through her home each winter. She says it’s perfect when you’re feeling under the weather and suggests adding a bit of whiskey when your health starts waning, “for medicinal purposes, of course.”
A deep, contented sigh while holding your warm mug and intoxicated by the spicy aromatics means you’ve done well.
Freelance writer Natasha Bourlin loved mulling over the warm beverage possibilities for winter. Her work can be found at Passportandplume.com.
Cynthia’s Citrus Cider
(courtesy of Cynthia Ferris-Bennett, owner, Sierra Chef in Genoa. Serves 4)
6 candied orange slices
24 whole cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 small sprig fresh rosemary
6 cinnamon sticks
1¼ cups local honey
½ cup water
2 quarts organic filtered apple cider
Spirit of your choice (optional)
4 clear, heat-resistant coffee mugs
Whipped cream (canned is fine, but fresh is better)
Caramel syrup ice cream topping
Wash and peel 2 lemons, cutting into large strips (use only the peel, not the white pith beneath it). Juice all 6 lemons (including the 2 you peeled), for a total of about 1½ cups freshly squeezed lemon juice. (Please take the time to squeeze lemons; don’t use the bottled lemon juice, says Ferris-Bennett, as it imparts a bitter flavor.)
In large saucepan, combine lemon peels, candied oranges, cloves, nutmeg, rosemary sprig, and 2 cinnamon sticks with honey and water. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer an additional 10 minutes. Remove from heat and strain through a fine strainer or several layers of cheesecloth. Return to stove over low heat and add lemon juice and cider. Heat until hot but not boiling over, then remove from heat.
Divide mulled cider into 4 clear, heat-resistant mugs, adding spirit at this point, if you choose. To serve, top with whipped cream and caramel drizzle. In each mug, place 1 cinnamon stick in the whipped cream. Cut orange slices just to the center of the orange and slide onto rim of each mug.