Now that pumpkin spice season is behind us and the Christmas holidays are ahead, it’s time to shift gears to the unmistakable holiday warmth of apple cider!

Apple spice and pumpkin spice really aren’t all that different…less nutmeg and ginger, and more allspice and cloves, and you’re ready to switch fruits. When combined with the bright acidity of apple, you have a warm, soothing, and delicious cup of holiday cheer that’s sure to delight (plus, it makes your whole house smell amazing!).

Here are two recipes you can start with, depending on how much effort you want to put in. The stovetop version is ready in minutes, while the slow-mulled spice version simmers all day. Feel free to adjust the spice blends to taste; your “family recipe” is all in the balance you prefer.

First Version: Stovetop Cheater

OK, let’s say you don’t have a slow cooker, and you want a mug of cider. You also don’t want to make a special trip to the store to get cider, AND you don’t want to make a gallon of it. We get it. Here’s a quick version you can do on the stove:

Ingredients:

  • 1 l. (about a quart) of apple juice
  • 1/2 tsp whole allspice
  • 1 tsp whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp orange juice concentrate

Directions:

Place whole allspice and cloves in a tea strainer, or use a coffee filter held closed with a rubber band to create a spice bag. Place all the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring the pot to a boil and let boil for about two minutes. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add brown sugar or other sweetener to taste (if needed — apple juice is a bit sweeter than cider). Remove spice bag and cinnamon stick. Serve and enjoy!

Not too bad, right? It’s not ideal, but it will give you the mulled effect in a relatively short amount of time.

Apple juice and apple cider are very close to the same thing. The juice just goes through more stages of filtration, to make it clearer. Removing the pulp reduces oxidation, which is what gives cider that warm brown colour and flavour.

Second Version: Hot Mulled Cider

Here’s the real deal. This one needs a crock pot or slow cooker. Because it cooks so slowly, we like to put it on when we go to bed. When we get up in the morning, the entire house is permeated with the smell of hot cider. What a fantastic way to wake up!

Ingredients:

  • 3 l. (about three quarts) unsweetened apple cider
  • 1 1/2 tsp. whole allspice
  • 1 TBSP whole cloves
  • 1 star anise
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 strips of orange zest or peel (or toss a whole mandarin orange or clementine in the pot)

Directions:

Place allspice and cloves into a tea strainer, or make a spice bag with a coffee filter and a rubber band (or cooking twine). Place all ingredients into the slow cooker, and cover. Set heat to low, and let it cook 4-8 hours.

There is a danger of overcooking, when the sugar and the fruit sugars can burn and caramelize, so you don’t want to leave this on indefinitely. Turn it off when you feel it’s spiced through, and let it cool. You can heat a cup at a time on the stove or in the microwave. When it cools, you can also return it to its original bottle and store it in the fridge. It also freezes really well!

Tried it? Let us know in the comments!

aWhere do you stand on the pumpkin vs. apple spice debate? Is there an appropriate season for both, or can they live in harmony throughout the fall (you know, like they do on actual farms)? Let us know in the comments!


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