Pumpkin spice isn’t the only fall drink worth obsessing over. Another favorite of the season is hot apple cider, a beverage as full of history as it is full of flavor. This is especially true in the United States, where apples are a big part of the history of the country. It’s easy enough to make it at home, so why not give it a try this year?
How is Apple Cider Different from Apple Juice?
Here’s a quick question to get out of the way first. Apple juice and apple cider are not the same thing. You can buy both in a jug at the store, but you will notice the difference right away when you look at them side-by-side. Apple cider is not filtered, so it’s like the apple equivalent of orange juice with pulp. Cider is not sweetened with additional sugar or pasteurized for a longer shelf life.
That doesn’t mean you can’t heat up apple juice if that’s all you have, but it won’t look, taste, or even feel the same as you drink it. Unless you plan to press the apples yourself, you should go to a store and pick up some apple cider and spices so you can make this seasonal treat at home.
How to Flavor your Apple Cider
The real impact of hot apple cider comes from what you add to it. The most common ways to spice up your apple cider is to add cinnamon sticks, orange zest and cloves. The options don’t stop there though, consider picking up allspice berries, lemons and maple syrup for a more well-rounded seasonal flavor.
You may find that getting zest from a lemon or orange is difficult if you don’t have the right tools. A microplane will get you the most flavor, but if you don’t have one, a vegetable peeler or very sharp paring knife will do well enough to shave off some of the skin of your fruit so you can add it to your cider.
Do you boil Apple Cider?
Not everyone agrees here, but keeping your cider below boiling can help keep some of the flavors more genuine and potent. You still want a light simmer and steam in your cider, though. Just the same, some just throw all the flavorings into the cider as it heats up and then pull it all out with a sieve before serving. Alternatively, you could put all your favorite seasonings into a cheesecloth bundle for easier extraction. Ultimately, how you make your hot apple cider is up to you, so try a few different ways and find out what works best for you.
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