I’m not much for holiday cooking and baking. I rarely host for any of the big holidays, and about the only thing I’ll bring to potlucks are non-holiday specific desserts. When a friend was throwing down for Thanksgiving and told us that we didn’t need to bring anything, I figured I could at least provide some libations. While wine is a default gift, I also sent ahead spices and ingredients to make mulled cider in the slow cooker. It’s a really simple recipe, but impressive mostly because of the seasonal charm and the fact that it will make your kitchen/apartment smell amazing while it simmers away.
Mulled/Spiced Apple Cider
- 2 qts apple cider (apple juice will also work)
- 3 whole cinnamon sticks
- 1 tsp whole allspice
- 10-15 whole cloves
- ½ sliced orange, unpeeled
- Optional: up to ¼-cup brown sugar, whole cardamom pods
- Put the spices and sliced orange into the crock pot.
- Pour 2 quarts apple cider into the crock pot.
- Give it a little stir and set the slow cooker to LOW for 4-6 hours or HIGH for 2-3. Your mileage may vary, but you want the cider to have time for the spices to bloom and rise to a light simmer.
- Variations: Add 2-4 whole cardamom pods to your taste/preference. Too much cardamom will overpower the other spices.
- Optional: If you’re using farmer’s market, all-natural or “murky looking” cider, it may have a bit more bite to it and you may want to sweeten the cider with brown sugar. If you’re using more filtered store-brand cider or apple juice, you likely won’t need this step unless you like really sweet cider. The sweetness won’t mask the spices.
A slow cooker isn’t required, as this could easily be done on the stove top. But a crock-pot is much more “set it and forget it” while you cook other items, clean house, just sit around and let it double as potpourri while it cooks, what have you. And it was quite apparent as we approached the door that the smell had started wafting out from their apartment and into the hallway–very festive and welcoming!
One thing we discovered as the evening progressed was that whiskey makes the perfect companion for this cider… dangerously so! It blends so well into the mix that you can’t taste the liquor at all save for a slight kick. This was about 2 ounces of whiskey to 8 ounces of cider, Maker’s Mark being the chosen tipple of the night. Unlike the glamour shot above, I’d suggest a mug or other thick-walled glass for serving it hot.
Leftover cider keeps pretty well in the fridge and it works OK as an iced beverage, but I definitely prefer the spiced version heated up. The spices can be found in grocery and gourmet stores year-round, but you can probably find them in bundles or on sale during the holiday cooking season since they’re seasonal classics. Store-bought mulling spice mixes will work just as well, as will ground spices–with an extra step to filter before serving.
Some friends speculated that they might be able to use Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice herbal tea bags in a pinch. Should they prove successful, I’ll report back.
Update: I heard back from one Bengal Spice attempt…
@urbanbohemian I did! Used three bags in a medium saucepan. Added cinnamon, allspice. Delicous, although a little cloying
— mazzie (╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻ (@mazzie) December 6, 2009
If you’re not really much of a cook, this would make a great non-alcoholic alternative to bring to a party. You could even make it a day or two ahead, funnel it back into the cider bottle, and bring it to be heated at the host’s place. I’m sure you could find some air-fresheners or holiday candles that will give your place the same seasonal feeling, but I prefer this method!