I received a request for fresh apple cider last week which happened to be on a particularly nasty Fall day. As the rain kept falling and the wind produced that just so uncomfortable chill, I began to look forward to the weekend, filling our house with the fragrant and comforting smell that I imagined such an endeavor would produce (as Ruth Reichl says, “comfort me with apples”).
The aforementioned request did not escape me this weekend, but the weekend turned out differently than I planned. Sunday evening, I found myself with not quite the respectful amount of apples that I probably should have had. Then again, a little goes a long way, so I decide to make due with the two apples and a pear that were hanging about in my fruit bowl. Some additional foraging in the pantry turned up a slew of goodies but I was remiss in tracking down my vanilla beans; perhaps they are in the same location as my missing sock from the dryer. Sans vanilla it was.
Now admittedly, I have never made mulled cider before but certainly had made mulled wine. Also, the rain had stopped and was replaced with a crisp, sunny weekend instead. I decided to take this opportunity to do my mulling outside. Off I went plopping my foraged goodies into a pot of water and setting it on the side burner of my outdoor grill. We were still rewarded with a smell so comforting and mixed with the invigorating freshness of the outdoor air, that I was prompted to build a fire in the fire pit, and extend past the hour required for simmering the cider and then try it in a gin and tonic as well.
After having just made this cider, I’m confident in saying, perfect measurements, precise timing and exact ingredients are not required. This one is an, “All skate” (bonus points for those of you that get that)! Take what you have and put it in a pot. Bring to boil. Simmer until aromatic. Strain. That’s it. Be creative if you are, better yet, if you don’t think you are! Just to give you an idea though, and for those that prefer a recipe, here is what I did this time; it will likely be different the next (that’s just me). I might even have located my vanilla beans by then – who knows and stay-tuned…. Enjoy!
2 apples – (Gala is what I had at the time, Tom’s fave) – cut in half
1 pear – (mine was a Bosc) – cut in half
1/2 a lemon – squeezed and added to the pot
1 cinnamon stick
3 chunks of candied ginger – (would have also used fresh ginger but was out, how bad am I?)
A scattering (that’s a technical term as you know) of dried lemongrass
1 TB whole coriander
1 TB whole allspice
1 fresh Kafir lime – cut in half, squeezed and plunked (yes, another technical term) in the pot (I know… but I happen to have one, so why not?)
2 TB beet powder – (beet powder is sweet, so I don’t use sugar)
A last minute addition was oregano and mint from my garden – just a bit.
PUT THE INGREDIENTS into a saucepan, FILL it with water. SIMMER over medium-low heat for an hour or so. The hour could easily be more and might even be less. The important thing here is to have the flavor concentration that you desire.
STRAIN in a chinois, pressing on the solid to squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can. If you don’t have a chinois, a regular strainer will do but do try to get all the liquid pressed through; don’t want to leave the good stuff behind!