It is slow cooker season! One of my favorite parts about the fall (aside from football and fall seasonal beers) is making easy and delicious meals in my slow cooker. BBQ pulled pork, beef stew, beef burgundy, and tomato sauce are some of my go-to favorites. Hard apple cider, though not a meal, was a new experiment that I recently tried. It was fun and easy and filled my home with the delicious smells of apple and cinnamon, which even hung around until the next day when the cable repair man commented on how great the house smelled. I used this recipe as inspiration, but made a few tweaks:
Slow Cooker Hard Apple Cider
9 medium apples, your favorite variety (I used Macintosh, Golden Delicious and Granny Smiths)
5 cinnamon sticks
½ tablespoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons whole cloves
12-16 cups water
2 tablespoons of sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
Wash all the apples and oranges and cut them into large chunks with the skin still on. Place all the fruit pieces in the slow cooker, then add cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg and cloves. Cover with water until the slow cooker is almost full. Cook on high for 3-4 hours.
About an hour before your cider is done, use a potato masher or spoon to mash the fruit (it will be very soft by now so this should be easy). You want the end result to be pulpy, so more of the great apple flavor is released. If you’re not a fan of pulp, don’t worry! We’ll take care of it later. Once the fruit is mashed, keep cooking for another hour.
When the fruit is cooked, it’s time to strain out all that pulp. If you have a mesh strainer or cheesecloth like the inspiration recipe calls for, it will make this step a little easier. I have always gotten by with a colander myself, and frankly, I didn’t even think about the difference between the two until it was too late and my cider was ready to be strained. So for those of us without, I got creative and MacGyvered a solution to save my afternoon project.
To get the pulp out of the cider I poured it through a colander a couple of times. I then put a quality paper towel (one that can take some water weight) on the bottom of the strainer and slowly ladled the cider through it. I had to use about 4 sheets of paper towel as I discarded each soaked one and relined the strainer. It didn’t take too long and worked very well.
The last step is to sweeten the cider–just add the brown sugar and maple syrup into a separate bowl and give it a good stir with a fork. Then, while the cider is warm stir in the maple syrup and sugar until everything is dissolved. The cider should last 4-5 days in the refrigerator, and can be rewarmed to serve.
Putting the Hard in Hard Apple Cider
The recipe I used for inspiration was a plain apple cider recipe. I knew I wanted to create something with a little kick, so I decided to add some spiced rum–very festive for fall. I went with Captain Morgan and used about a cup and a half. you want the cider to cook with the rum for a little bit to soften the flavor, but not so much that the alcohol burns off. After straining the cider, I added a cup and a half of rum to the mixture and let it warm (not boil) for about an hour. You can adjust the amount of rum according to your tastes, but I think the cup and a half added a great kick without being overwhelming. Also remember, you can always add more rum later when you reheat.
A Note on Cinnamon:
Have you ever cooked with cinnamon sticks? Yea, I haven’t either. However, like my personal heroes Shawn Spencer and Burton Guster (if you haven’t seen Psych you really should) I am a big fan of cinnamon. I just usually get my cinnamon treats after they have already been made! So, I got a little bit crazy and threw a couple extra cinnamon sticks in the cider. I figured, why not?! You can’t have too much of a good thing. What I learned, though, is that it is not so much the cinnamon flavor that can be overpowering but the cinnamon’s ability to kind of dry out your mouth, even when you are drinking a cinnamon beverage. It wasn’t too bad, but I recommend you tread lightly.
I hope you enjoy this delicious fall treat!
Francis Tucker is a practicing attorney in New York City. He enjoys traveling, experimenting in the kitchen, and a good Scotch