In my rural neighbourhood south of Nanaimo, the air is filled every weekend with the smell of back yard burning. It is surprising how much blow down a mere half acre can generate.
Sometimes a utilitarian bonfire turns social when your townie friends find out you’re having a bonfire. Everyone is chomping at the bit for outdoor social activities and the beach is just too cold now.
It may be hot by the fire but a nice warm cup of mulled cider really hits the spot on a cool day.
Great mulled cider starts with great apple cider. A natural cider, like the Salt Spring Wild Semi-Dry is simply perfect.
Salt Spring Wild produces a diverse line up of natural ciders. At Lucky’s Liquor we stock the Elderflower, the Hopped Apricot, the Pear, the Farmhouse Scrumpy, the Dry and a limited release of Bitter Orange Rosemary. All the cider from Salt Spring Wild is rich in flavour and texture and made using pure natural ingredients.
The Semi-Dry is made with a combination of apple from 100 year old heritage trees, organic orchard apples and apples harvested from the abundant wild apple trees on Salt Spring Island; guaranteeing a cider that delivers optimum flavour for mulling.
The crock pot is your best friend for mulling cider. Low, slow heat with a tight fitting lid preserves the alcohol and the flavours, while allowing time for the spices to steep.
Store-bought mulling spice is often boring and relies too often on just cloves and cinnamon. If you are after something outstanding in your mug, make your own spice blend – a customized mulled cider should impress your pals.
Choose from nutmeg, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, juniper berries, star anise, coriander, cardamom, vanilla bean and fresh ginger. Now that Nanaimo has a Bulk Barn, these ingredients are readily available.
Pick three or four favorites, and get mulling.
Keep the dry spices whole, but coarsely chop your fresh ginger and vanilla bean. Be stingy with the star anise and cardamom. They can make a cider fantastic, but too much anise and/or cardamom can turn the drink bitter.
A half cup of whole spices in two litres of cider will enhance the mixture without dominating the apple flavor. What you are after is mulled apple cider, not mulled spices.
To make mulled apple cider:
Pour two litres of apple cider into a crock pot, set on low.
Toast your whole spices lightly in a sauté pan, then place them in cheesecloth along with a bit of broken-up vanilla pod. Tie the cloth into a bouquet garni, using string. Place it in the cider, put the lid on the slow cooker and let the mix to brew for a couple hours.
Near the end, add a few treats. A sliced orange and some lemon peel will accent the apple flavour. If you want more sweet, a few tablespoons of honey will do the trick. A splash of brandy at the finish adds an extra touch of warmth.