I always feel a little guilty whenever I make this apple cider, though it’s not for the reasons you might expect. It hasn’t been uncommon for people to remark that it’s the best they’ve ever tasted.
Really? Wow, that was more than I was anticipating.
The first time it happened, I thought the guy was just trying to be nice, but then it kept happening again and again.
Such compliments continue to amaze me because this recipe is so simple and takes all of five minutes of prep work. Why should I receive praise for doing next to nothing? The more I think about it, though, the more I realize that what makes this recipe a star isn’t the method or some sophisticated technique. It comes from using fresh, quality ingredients.
It all starts with good quality apple cider, which I highly recommend obtaining from a local cider mill. The freshest, best tasting ciders come from this source. If that’s not a possibility in your community or if you want something more convenient, Litehouse brand is a great option. (Just make sure whatever you use has some body to it. It’s been a sad day any time I’ve used regular apple juice or an “apple cider” that was practically transparent.)
With premium apple cider in your possession, you really could stop right there and be done. How something so delicious can come from a single plant that grows out of the dirt is nothing short of miraculous. But by combining just a few ingredients, the natural apple flavors can be enhanced and built upon for a richer experience.
In this preparation, the apple cider is sweetened slightly with sugar, and then fresh squeezed orange juice is added for a bit of acidity. Orange peel brings a subtle bitterness to the party that doesn’t detract from the sweetness but rather complements it. The spice of the cloves and cinnamon makes this the perfect hot beverage for the holiday season.
- 2 quarts apple cider
- 1/4 cup turbinado sugar
- 1 large navel orange
- 6-8 whole cloves
- 2 small cinnamon sticks
- In a large pot, combine the apple cider, turbinado sugar, and the juice of the orange.
- Place the peel of half of the orange on a square of cheesecloth along with the cloves and cinnamon sticks. Wrap the cheesecloth around the ingredients and tie with kitchen twine. Add the bundle of spices to the pot of cider.
- Allow the mixture to heat up over medium heat just until simmering, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and ladle into mugs to serve.
Tips and Tidbits:
- Turbinado sugar is the same thing as Sugar in the Raw. If you don’t have any on hand, brown sugar substitutes well. You could even try pure maple syrup or agave nectar as a sweetener if you are feeling adventurous!
- Due to availability, I used navel oranges when photographing this recipe, but you can choose whatever oranges you have on hand. In the winter months, seedless mandarin oranges (e.g. “Cuties”) are almost always in my home, and I substitute 3 of those oranges for the larger navel orange.
- If you aren’t in a hurry, you can also make the Hot Spiced Cider in a slow cooker. Heat for 2 hours on high, then turn down to warm until serving. The aroma that fills your home will be heavenly.
- For an extra special treat, add a splash of rum to your mug. It’s a good thing Baby #2 will be making his entrance in the middle of winter as I’ll still have time to enjoy some spiked cider before the weather warms up for spring.