The autumnal equinox has passed and the sun began setting earlier in the evening months ago. Finally, the heat breaks, cooler weather has arrived and soon the first frost will change the color of the leaves in most parts of the country.
Fall evokes memories of sleeping with the windows open, cool morning walks, raking and jumping in leaf piles (you know you still do it!), evening bonfires, camping and the most traditional aspect of fall. . . spiced cider. That singular drink carries most people all the way through the end of January.
It turns out wassailing isn’t just some crazy word made up to describe what was being done “through the leaves so green”. It actually refers to an even crazier traditional ceremony held as early as November 1 and as late as January 17 in various parts of Europe. The purpose of the ceremony was to ward off evil spirits from the apple orchard to help ensure a successful apple harvest the following year.
To each their own. We love the drink but have no need for the lore, superstition or ceremony.
So, let’s not lose focus here, we’re talking about the drink. Why “cider” and what is the difference between “cider” and “juice”?
Cider according to the American Cider Book cider is unpasteurized AND unfiltered. Cider is the fresh juice of pressed apples. Visit any local grocery store and you’ll see brown transparent liquid labeled as juice. You will also see tan translucent liquid labeled as cider, but never one for the other.
Most juice and cider manufacturers can’t even tell you why they call their product one or the other anymore. Such a sad thing, really, that our food production is so automated and so far removed from the original process of pressing and juicing – at the orchard – that we have lost touch with the reason we call cider – cider.
This distinction is important because you will see lots of recipes for spiced “cider” showing images of mugs with spiced “juice” all transparent and seemingly more inviting. We beg to differ. It’s the unfiltered pulp that makes cider what it is, not only in name, but more importantly in it’s flavor profile.
Imagine growing up with the most amazing apple pie, made with large chunks of delicious apple that the ice cream would cling to as it melted over pie that was fresh out of the oven. Now imagine someone trying to serve you a pie made from apple extract – no chunks, no pulp, no chew, no mouthfeel. We’re certain you would take an exception to calling that twisted creation apple pie.
And yet, spiced cider is so much more than just freshly squeezed apples. It’s the perfect combination of citrus and spices that’s made even better with the addition of a good bourbon or spiced rum (like Sailor Jerry) if you like your spiced cider with a bit more kick! Throw in some champagne yeast and a few weeks of your time and you can even make your own spiced hard cider!
So, as you gather up the ingredients listed below for making the best spiced cider you’ve ever had, make sure you look for the best unfiltered, unpasteurized fresh squeezed apple cider you can find. Because, now you know that nothing else really qualifies as cider!
- Place cider in large pot.
- Slice orange in half, squeeze juice into cider pot and then place both halves in pot as well.
- Add cloves, star anise, cinnamon, and Serrano chile pepper.
- Peel ginger root, cut into three equal pieces and add.
- Bring pot to a boil and allow to cook for 15 minutes. Then reduce heat to simmer with lid on for 30 minutes.
- Stir in Applewood Smoked Sea Salt.
- Rim mugs with Spiced Cider drink rimmer.
- If serving with bourbon or rum, fill mugs ¼ full and then top off with spiced cider.