What to Do With That Leftover Bottle of Cider: Apple Cider Syrups

Every fall without fail I crave hot mulled apple cider. There is nothing like settling down on the couch with a steaming mug under a blanket during those damp, cold nights of pre-winter. Sure, hot toddies are wonderful, but there is just something about the aroma of spiced cider. Add a slug of apple brandy and the apple flavors become that much more intense. Unfortunately, this craving disappears almost as soon as my mug is empty. And it is only when I open the fridge about a month later to a bloated half gallon of half-fermented cider that I remember that I don't really like apple cider. If I'm lucky, I discover this before the plastic jug has given in to the pressure, leaving a sticky puddle steadily expanding over the bottom of my refrigerator. This year as I noticed the the cider steadily making its way toward the back of the fridge, already half-hidden behind the orange juic and several vermouth bottles, I decided enough was enough. Instead of waiting for the cider to sour, this year I would make the cider not only more interesting but also last longer.

Mulled Cider

3 cups apple cider
2 cinnamon sticks
20 cloves, or more
35 allspice berries, or more
2 star anise
1 medium orange

1. Coarsely crush the spices and peel the orange. Half should do.

2. In a saucepan, combine the cider and the spices. Bring to an almost boil and reduce heat to a low.
3. Simmer for 20 minutes and then add the orange peel. Simmer 10 more minutes.
4. Strain out the spices and pour into your favorite mug.
5. Add brown sugar and/or apple brandy, to taste

This is my standard mulling recipe--granted the spice quantities will change depending on what is available or where my interests take me. Ginger would make an interesting addition or even some nutmeg, black pepper, or toasted fennel seeds. Using a Chinese five-spice blend would takethe drink in an interesting, albeit different direction. Also any citrus can be used. In fact, though I usually use an orange, in a pinch lemon peel or even grapefruit peel could work. The citrus contributes a certain brightness that contrasts the more earthy, dried spices.

As two cups of mulled cider was more than enough, I decided to make a syrup out of the excess. As the cider was already warm, this was extremely easy as well. Of course mulled cider syrup could just as easily be made separately. On a lark, I added molasses and brown sugar to provide an extra funkiness and depth. Even without these additions, this tasty syrup will work as well in cocktails as on pancakes, in oatmeal or even in tea. The spices aren't necessary either. A simple cider syrup is delicious on its own.

Mulled Cider Syrup

1 cup strained, mulled cider
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon molasses

Combine ingredients in a pan over low heat, stirring until sugar is completely incorporated. After letting the syrup cool, bottle and add 1 ounce of vodka (optional). Refrigerate.

Cider Syrup

1 cup cider
1 cup sugar

Combine ingredients in a bowl. Whisk until fully combined (no heat needed). Bottle and add 1 ounce of vodka (optional).

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