How To: Everything You Need to Know About Mulled Cider

Everything You Need to Know About Mulled Cider

When it's frigid outside, all you can think about is getting inside and shutting out the cold. But sometimes even the largest house can get a bit, well, stuffy.

One of the best ways to make the most of the situation is by making mulled cider in your slow cooker. Start the mulled cider in the morning before you head to work; when you get home, your house will smell amazing—and you'll be able to kick off your shoes and wash away the day's troubles with some liquid comfort.

Image via Shutterstock

Here are my favorite tips for slow cooker mulled cider success.

Start with Apple Cider, NOT Apple Juice

While it may seem a small distinction, there is a difference between apple cider and apple juice. What that difference is, though, may vary according to where you are buying your apple beverage.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture, "Fresh cider is raw apple juice that has not undergone a filtration process to remove coarse particles of pulp or sediment." On the other hand, "Apple juice is juice that has been filtered to remove solids and pasteurized so that it will stay fresh longer."

Apple cider on the left, apple juice on the right. Image by Rmhermen/Wikimedia Commons

But Martinelli's, perhaps most famous for their sparkling cider, a popular champagne alternative, states that they make no distinction between the two; it's merely a matter of customer preference.

Luckily for us cider lovers, apples are in season right now—so I recommend a trip your local farmers' market for fresh-pressed, unfiltered, and super flavorful apple cider. The base of your mulled cider is important: the freshest cider will definitely make the tastiest drink.

Use a Good Recipe

Urban Bohemian has a great, super simple recipe for mulled cider to get you started. It includes all of the aspects of a great cider that we'll touch on below, such as fruit and spices.

Image via Urban Bohemian

However, as you continue to get more comfortable with making your own cider, you'll find that you want to break out of the box and add your own touches to the recipe—or create your own recipe altogether, which is where the rest of these tips will come in handy.

Add Fruit—Lots & Lots of Fruit

Also available at farmers' markets right now are a plethora of apple varieties. Apples that are sturdy enough to hold up to baking are also going to maintain their integrity in your mulled cider, so look to Granny Smith, Mutsu, and Pink Lady apples for a balance of sweet and tart flavors.

Image via American Spoon

Oranges are another staple of mulled cider making. Bobby Flay recommends whole slices of oranges, while Ina Garten opts for just using the peel and the juice.

Image via Ever’man Cooperative Grocery

You can even turn your cider-making into a sort of craft project by including a clove-studded orange or tangerine in your drink; and if you make two, you can use one to keep fruit flies away.

Pick the Right Spices & Toast Them First

Certain spices just naturally complement apples, and Serious Eats advises us to stick to the classics like cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, star anise, and of course, clove. But others encourage adventurous "mullers" to include ginger, allspice berries, and even pink peppercorns!

Whichever spices you use, make sure to toast them first. This draws out the essence of the spice and brings another level of rich flavor to your mulled cider.

Image by Chef Craig/Etsy

Add Alcohol

Virgin mulled cider is delicious on its own... but doesn't the idea of taking the edge off the day with the adult version sound delightful? Rum, bourbon, cognac, Calvados (apple-flavored liquor), cinnamon Schnapps, and even whisky all complement the sweet, rich flavor of mulled cider. You can even emulate Martha Stewart and make a warm fall sangria by adding red wine. Just make sure to add your booze after your cider is done mulling; otherwise, the potency of the alcohol will cook off.

Image by Peter & Dona/LivingtheQLife

Share the Love

After a while, you'll find a combination of mulling spices that becomes your go-to mix when making cider. Keep this magical ratio consistent by creating sachets of your preferred spice combo in advance—not only will it make mulling cider even easier than it is already, it's also a fantastic gift to share with friends and family that have fallen in love with your recipe.

For individual mugs of cider, check out this Martha Stewart recipe. And if you're making a slow cooker's amount of mulled cider, 30 Pounds of Apples has a great recipe here—enough to make 32 half-gallon batches!

Image by Catherine/Misadventures Magazine

What Are You Waiting for? Start Mulling!

As you can tell, there are myriad ways to make mulled cider in your slow cooker. These are all just suggestions, a jump-off point for your creativity. Customize and tinker with your mulled cider recipe by adding fruit, spices, and booze—then let us know how it turned out!

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Cover image via Shutterstock

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