The winter months in Central Florida may not get too chilly, but it’s still a great time to gather friends and family to enjoy seasonal food and drinks. What better way to get in a holiday mood than with cider, served spiced and hot, or spiked and cold?
Known simply as “cider” in England, Americans added the prefix “hard” to differentiate between cider containing alcohol and non-alcoholic cider. The hard variety is made from fermented apples and ranges in alcohol content from less than 3 percent (in French ciders) to 8 percent or more (in traditional English ciders). There are also dry ciders, named for their natural sugar, which has been fermented out so they are less sweet. Dry cider, which is a hard cider, is most often used for mixed drinks but can also be consumed alone.
It’s easy to make non-alcoholic cider right in your own kitchen, on the stovetop or even in your crockpot. Then you can have it just as it is or, if you’re hosting a party, offer a variety of bourbons or dark rums with your homemade cider so guests can spike their glass if they prefer.
For the cooler, but more mellow, alcoholic cider, you may want to make your own. Making hard cider is very similar to winemaking. The secret to success is using fresh pressed cider that has not been treated in any way. Cider purchased at a grocery store will almost always contain preservatives and will rot before it will ferment. Top grade cider-making juice is available from local juice distributors.
Making alcohol-based cider from scratch can be an intricate process that requires chemicals and equipment that may no the commonly found. Purchasing an equipment kit will make for an easier start to cider making.
When it’s still averaging 76 degrees outside a cold cider is a welcome aperitif. But this recipe for spiced, hot cider – or if you prefer, lukewarm – can still warm the soul even if it doesn’t need to warm the hands.
Spiced Cider Recipe
-6 cups apple cider
-1/4 cup real maple syrup
-2 cinnamon sticks
-6 whole cloves
-6 whole allspice berries
-1 orange peel, cut into strips
-1 lemon peel, cut into strips
Pour the apple cider and maple syrup into a large stainless steel saucepan. Place the cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice berries, orange peel and lemon peel in the center of a washed square of cheesecloth. Fold the sides of the cheesecloth to enclose the bundle then tie the bundle with kitchen string. Drop the spice bundle into the cider mixture. Place the saucepan over moderate heat for five to 10 minutes or until the cider is hot but not boiling. Remove the cider from the heat and discard the spice bundle. Ladle the cider into big cups or mugs, adding a fresh cinnamon stick to each serving, if desired.