By Renee Scheidt
Autumn is here! One of my all time favorite things about this time of year is apple cider. It’s such a versatile beverage. Warm, it’s a wonderfully friendly smell to wake up to in the mornings and a soothing caffeine-free hug in the evenings. Cool, it’s a refreshing burst of natural sugar and fiber, reviving me from the occasional 3pm slump. Frozen into popsicles it’s the after school treat my kids (and their friends) ask for when the cold mornings have become sweltering afternoons.
Why am I blogging about apple cider on the River Hills Harvest page? Because no matter how you serve it, apple cider is better after mulling, and mulled apple cider isn’t complete without dried elderberries in your spice blend. Mulling is the process of using heat to add the flavors of the sweet spices to a beverage, usually juices from a hard fruit like apples and pears, red wine, or mead. The sweet spices are everything you associate with pumpkin pie, apple pie, and the ubiquitous fall lattes. Sometimes referred to as the warm spices, these flavors enhance the natural sugars of a food or drink while adding a delightful layering of flavors. While defined as “warm” and “sweet”, there is neither sugar nor capsaicin in the mulling spices you buy at the store, although some people add them to homemade blends.
Most store blends of mulling spices are too heavy into cinnamon for my personal preference so I began to create my own a few years ago. Dried elderberry is something that you never find in the store blends, but it’s such a delightful addition! Elderberry adds a bright, slightly acidic note to mulled beverages and the lower temperature infusion allows all the health benefits to shine through.
Mulled Apple Cider This recipe is in “parts” because you may be making a single serving with a tea ball or using the crockpot for your entire family. As with any spice blend, these portions are guidelines based on the author's preference and can be modified easily for your family tastes.
Dried Orange Peel
Be sure your ingredients are of approximate equitable size. This means you will want to crush your cinnamon sticks and cube the ginger to create pieces about the same size as a peppercorn or clove bud. Alternatively, everything can be measured with a digital scale. If any of your herbs are in powder form, I recommend using ¼ the portion and adjusting for taste.
Warm your cider and spices over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Do not allow the cider to boil. Infuse at least 15 minutes, longer for a
stronger spice flavor. Alternatively, place spices and cider in a crockpot on Low Heat for up to 4 hours. Use a mesh strainer to separate spices. Serve, and enjoy! For 16oz cider, each part is a single piece, approximately 1 Tbsp. or 6g dry For 1 gallon cider, each part is 10-12 pieces, approximately ½ cup or 65g dry
Whether I’m mulling wine or cider, I never begrudge the time it takes to create the sweet, deep flavors the warm spices add. The bright notes of River Hills Harvest Freeze-Dried American Elderberries or Dried American Elderberries balances the woody cinnamon and clove, calms the ginger bite, and keeps the orange peel from getting carried away. The low temperature of mulling assures that you’ll reap all the immune boosting benefits of the American elderberry plant and bonus, it’s not too hot to drink as soon as the timer dings!
Renee is a displaced country girl, gardening an oversized lot in the city and helping out on the family farm. She spends her time chasing the children around while they get dirty. She spends her free time on typical and atypical household chores, including herb preservation and soap making. Her hobbies include collecting sewing projects, reading cookbooks, and dance parties in the kitchen.