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Hot mulled cider has been a fall/winter staple for Chelsea and me since our first year at McGill. While we were living in university residence, Chelsea’s mom used to send her care packs nearly twice a month. One of the care packs in November had a box of RW Knudsen “mulling spices” in little single serving tea bags. So simple. So yummy and homey. All we had to do was heat up some apple juice and steep the tea bag for bit and we had hot mulled cider to go with our homework.
In second year, the cold weather started and we started making cider again and it didn’t take long for us to use up all of our mulling spice tea bags! Chels said her mum could send us some more, but I wasn’t willing to wait for that. I looked at the ingredients of the Knudsen spice bags, and then began looking into recipes for mulled cider. The result: A very rough, thrown-together recipe for hot mulled cider. It never comes out exactly the same. It is always delicious and delivers the same warm, happy holiday feelings that I want from my cider.
Hot Mulled Cider, roughly, thrown-together, always good:
2 litres of apple juice (eye ball half of the 4 litre jug if you go through as much cider as we do)
Not the super sweet sunripe kind, but the kind that has some sediment, is probably organic, and maybe not pasteurized. It has a more rich apply flavour. It’s less like candy, and more like juice.
A 1 inch hunk of fresh ginger
Sliced very thin, or grated even. The idea to maximize the surface area and get that ginger juice in there.
A navel orange
Again, sliced thin, and put in the pot with the juice and ginger
2 cinnamon sticks
To taste! I like my cider really clovey and put at least 10 whole cloves. Some people don’t really like cloves. It’s a personal preference thing.
A few dried bay leaves
Broken up and put in the pot.
I put a shot of brandy in my mug before filling it up with cider. I got mixed reviews on how strong the cider was at last year’s Christmas party, so of course this is another “to taste” item.
I think that’s it. Put everything, minus the brandy, in a big pot and heat it up just to a simmer, but don’t boil it. Take it off heat and serve with some brandy. You can garnish the glass with a cinnamon stick and an orange. In my experience, it just gets taken out, but it does look nice!
If you like mulled cider and you like red wine, I strongly suggest you make mulled wine. It’s basically the same stuff, but with some cranberry juice and maybe a little sugar.
What I have learned about these hot holiday drinks is that they are always tasty, but rarely a precise recipe. Experiment and find your personal favourite way of doing things!
Happy Cider Season!
I’m really happy to say that I am blessed with an abundance of great coffee in my life. While I don’t drink a lot of it (1-4 cups a week) when I do I want it to be really really good (duh. I’m a food snob after all!). The nearest place to get a proper espresso near my office is Street Level Espresso. It’s a tiny shop (and I do mean tiny – this photo shows pretty much the whole place… no starbucks arm chairs here).
Owner Ken Gordon’s girl-friday is the lovely Mal. Just this weekend Mal went to Toronto to represent Street Level, Victoria, and BC in the National Barista Championships (this was Mal’s first year competing!). In the competition, each barista must prepare and serve 12 coffee beverages – four espresso, four cappuccino, and four signature drinks for the judges. I went into the shop this morning to ask her how it went, and she offered to make me her signature drink, and we chatted about coffee a little.
Mal said that she loves the complexity of coffee–both the beans and the brewing. She pointed out that coffee beans come from far more places in the world than wine, and carry with them far more flavor profiles. If being a wine expert is tough, being a well versed bean lover is even a more daunting task. Mal also loves the science and nerdy goodness of learning how to extracting a perfect espresso. She also said that she loves that coffee brings people together – Street Level is always hopping with people chatting and connecting.
Mal’s signature drink is a shot of espresso supported by a little chia tea to bring out the flavours in the coffee. The espresso is a blend of beans and each brings it’s own flavours to the drink: Columbia (cocoa), Panama (spice and dried fruit) and Costa Rica (citrus). Mal brewed a black chia tea with cardamon, ginger and cinnamon, and put a small amount (1 tbls?) into the espresso cup. She also rimmed the cup with frehs lime. The tea and the lime helps bring out the notes of spice and citrus in the coffee, and makes the flavours pop. I’ve never tasted anything like it, and it was a real pleasure to drink. It was like a great wine – the flavours changed with every sip, inhale and exhale. I’ve suggested she name this drink the “Malacano”.
So my friends, go forth caffeinated, and have a wonderful day.
ps – By the way, Ken and Mal make the BEST MOCHA IN TOWN. (read this testimonial. Really. Trust me).
pps – if you are in Vic and want to learn a lot about coffee (i.e. why does a Kenyan taste different than a Colombian bean?) head over to Habit Coffee and Culture for one of their free weekly coffee cuppings.
This is my final post in the 365 Foods project, and what could be more appropriate than drinking a beer to celebrate? I’ve had so much fun both contributing and reading the posts by the 365 team and my co-guest bloggers. So I’m raising a glass to each of the foodies here, and to all you readers out there too. We appreciate you dropping by!
I have to say, I am a lucky, lucky woman. Why? My boyfriend makes fantastic home-brew. For several years now he’s been producing carefully tailored brews right in our apartment, and there’s no pleasure in life quite like the pleasure of tasting a beer that has been carefully planned and prepared over the course of weeks. As summer approaches I can count on him to produce a gorgeous Belgian-style witbier, perfect for sipping in our camp chairs. Other times he’ll turn out IPAs, Amber Ales, or whatever is tickling his creative fancy.
To those of you who have politely sipped at terrible home-brew and tried to pour it in the nearest house plant: trust me – there’s a whole other world out there.
I will attempt only a cursory intro to home-brewing today. The process is far too involved to do justice in a little blog post. However, if you are intrigued by what you see, don’t be intimidated! Once you’re familiar with the process it’s quite easy and doesn’t have to take a lot of time. In fact, fabulous results can be had with a method easier than the one I’m describing today.
A dear friend of ours got us into home-brewing, and introduced us to Dan’s Homebrewing Supplies. Dan is incredibly knowledgeable and stocks everything you could possibly need to make top-quality beers customized to your own tastes. He offers many recipes to get you started, and will help you create your own recipes too. This isn’t your standard “pick-a-boxed-beer-kit” U-brew kind of place.
Today’s beer is an ale loosely based on Liberty Ale by San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing Company. I’ll break it down by ingredient, and then roughly describe the process. I’m not the expert in the house (and while we are careful we aren’t as meticulous as some brewers out there) so I acknowledge now that what I’m about to write should be taken as a loose guide only!
In brewing, Malt refers to grains (usually barley) that have been germinated, dried, and sometimes roasted. In this recipe we’re using mostly Canadian-grown 2-row malt, which is a classic British beer malt, and a little bit of Carastan malt, a roasted malt that adds some body and sweet, toffee-like flavour.
Hops are flowers that not only flavour beer, but act as a natural preservative. Hops add both bitterness and aroma to the beer. We used two American varieties: Centennial and Cascade, which both have spicy, floral characters with a lot of grapefruit.
Yeast ferments the sugars in the malt creating alcohol and CO2. We used dry Nottingham yeast, a fairly neutral ale yeast that would let the malt and hop flavours really shine.
We used an “All grain” method for this beer, which means that we extracted all the sugars from the malt ourselves. A quicker method that still yields excellent results makes use of malt extract and pretty much skips the mash and sparging steps I’m about to describe.
Mashing is the process of soaking the malt in hot water to convert the complex starches into simple sugars that the yeast can easily ferment. We use our camping cooler and diligent attention to keep the mash at the right temperature. The sugary fluid that results from the mash is called Wort.
Sparging combines two processes: draining filtered Wort from the mash tun (in this case our cooler) and flushing as much sugar out of the malt as possible with more hot water. We modify our cooler to include a spigot that filters the wort through braided stainless steel cable, keeping all the grain debris out of the wort.
Boiling and Hopping
The boil serves three purposes. First, it sterilizes the Wort. Second, it purifies the Wort by removing undesirable compounds, some of which evaporate and some of which coagulate at this stage and can be removed later. Third, the boil releases flavour from hops by releasing alpha acids. Hops are often added at more than one stage of the boil. Hops added early in the boil add lots of bitterness but little aroma while hops added near the end add little flavour but lots of aroma. We added the Centennial hops at the beginning of the boil and some of the Cascades at the end. More Cascade hops were reserved for a later stage.
The Wort needs to be cooled very rapidly. We used a cold water bath and ice. We then strained out the hops and transfered the wort into the Primary Fermentor.
Fermentation and Dry-hopping
Once the Wort is cool enough, activated yeast is added and the beer is left to ferment. The first stage, or Primary Fermentation, takes a few days – we usually let it go for a week. During this time the fermentation is apparent from the bubbling in the bung (um, yeah) as CO2 escapes the fermentor.
When primary fermentation is complete the beer is carefully siphoned into the Secondary Fermentor (for this stage we use a gigantic glass bottle called a carboy). For this beer we will be “dry-hopping” which means more hops are added to the Secondary to increase the beer’s aroma. Secondary Fermentation clarifies the beer and can rejuvenate the yeast a bit. We generally leave beer in the Secondary for two weeks.
We don’t use kegs, so we rely on bottle conditioning to carbonate our beer. The beer is carefully siphoned out of the secondary into another vessel and Priming Sugar is added. The beer is then poured into bottles and capped. The yeast in the beer gorge on this new sugar and create CO2 in the bottles. After a few weeks in the bottles the beer is carbonated and ready to drink.
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This batch is currently in the Primary, so we’ll probably get our first taste in mid-November, and it will continue to improve for several weeks after that. This batch will produce about 23 litres of beer (about 65 standard sized bottles) from $30 worth of ingredients. That’s about $0.46 per beer.
I’d share with you all if I could. But please enjoy Drink Beer Day in whatever manner suits you best! All my best, and thanks for a great year here at 365 Foods!
* Sorry. I don’t know who to attribute the beer mug photo to. It’s on over 60 websites and I don’t know who the photographer is.