Hot chocolate is always a good choice once cooler temps roll around, but nothing warms the soul quite like a mug full of hot, spiced apple cider — especially if that cider is homemade. After all, choosing the exact spices that go into it means you get to create the perfect blend of sugar, spice and everything nice.
Fortunately, it's easy to make a big batch of spiced apple cider at home. Hello, cozy fall and winter nights!
First, Start With the Juice
Before you can customize your cider, you have to build a great base. Which means you need a great apple juice. You can work with any brand you like, but an all-natural, unfiltered variety that is not from concentrate will yield the best results. (Since you'll be adding other ingredients, you want to keep the juice as basic as possible.) Feeling extra ambitious? Go on and juice your own apples for an extra hit of freshness!
Then Come the Spices
Once you have your juice, you need to add in some spice — a blend of cloves, allspice and cinnamon works nice. They're the same flavors often used in apple pies, breads and cobblers, as they compliment the natural sweetness of apple without overwhelming it.
Both ground and whole spices work in a homemade apple cider, though whole varieties tend to be easier to work with since you can quickly strain them out when you're ready to serve. (With ground spices, you may need to pass your cider through a coffee filter two or three times.) Whole spices also stay fresh significantly longer than ground ones, meaning your cabinet is likely to have leftover cinnamon sticks and allspice berries when you want an impromptu batch next season.
Don't Forget to Simmer
To draw out the warm flavors of your spices, give your cider plenty of time (around an hour) to infuse on the stovetop. Craving an extra-spicy cider? Double your volume of spices — it's way easier than trying to steep the same amount for twice the time.
Homemade Spiced Cider
Yield: 1 gallon
- 1 gallon unfiltered apple juice
- 3- 3" cinnamon sticks
- 1 tablespoon whole cloves
- 1 tablespoon whole allspice berries
- ½ cup brown sugar
1. Combine Your Ingredients
Pour apple juice into a large pot. Break cinnamon sticks into 1- to 1½" pieces. Add cinnamon, cloves, allspice berries and brown sugar to the apple juice and bring the mixture to a simmer. Stir occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
2. Cook and Steep
Once juice reaches a simmer, cover the pot and turn the heat down to a very low flame. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, then turn off the heat. Allow cider to steep for 1 hour.
3. Strain Out the Spices
Pour cider through a sieve and into a large pitcher, straining out the spices. Serve hot, or refrigerate and reheat when ready to serve.
Homemade cider will keep for about a week in your refrigerator when stored in an airtight container.