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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Spiced Apple-Cranberry-Orange Cider: Made in the Crockpot to Drink Now or Later



Now that the chilly weather has hit my region, I've been trying out various ingredient combinations to make a hot cider, using only what I have on hand. These ingredients are ones that I regularly have in fall and winter, so any successful cider recipes that I create now will be repeatable throughout this year and in future years. My original intent was to come up with a hot cider for this year's fall and winter holidays. However, we discovered that crockpot hot cider is also a convenience item for "regular" days.


In the cold months, my family enjoys lots of hot beverages, including coffee, tea, cocoa, and spiced cider. In past years, I've bought these individual packets of hot cider mix. The ingredients in the packets leave a lot to be desired, in my opinion. Here they are as listed on the side of the box: "sugar, malic acid, maltodextrin, tricalcium phosphate (prevents caking), apple juice solids, caramel color, sodium citrate (controls acidity), ascorbic acid, natural and artificial flavors, spice extractive."


While I can appreciate how handy these packets are for bringing on the road while traveling, for everyday consumption, I've found a solution for my family that is just as time-saving, more affordable, and only contains ingredients with whose names I am familiar. I have been making crockpot cider on the weekends, then refrigerating the leftovers right in the covered crock. Family members ladle themselves a cup and reheat in the microwave whenever the mood for spiced cider strikes.


This is our favorite combination so far:

Spiced Cranberry-Apple-Orange Cider

48 ounces apple juice (I used frozen concentrate mixed with water according to package directions)
12 additional ounces of water
1 orange, sliced thin
1 cup whole cranberries (fresh or frozen)
2 cinnamon sticks
10 to 15 whole cloves


Add all of the ingredients to the crockpot and set on High for 6 hours. After 6 hours, reduce setting to Low for 4 to 8 additional hours. Using the back of a spoon or ladle, crush several of the cranberries to release their color and flavor. Serve or refrigerate to reheat later.


This will be our hot cider for the holiday season this year. I'll have a crockpot set up in the kitchen to welcome guests on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. I think the spicy-sweet aroma alone will be welcoming. 

Cost Comparison 
In comparing the cost of the cider packets to the homemade cider made with real-food ingredients, the two versions come out very close in price, with the homemade version just slightly less expensive per ounce than the packet. However, I think it's important to recognize that the packet contains very little real food, whereas a homemade cider like the one I made is prepared with only real-food ingredients and consequently has a higher nutritive value. This comparison is a bit like comparing a sugared soft drink to juice. My vote is for the homemade cider.

14 comments:

Live and Learn said...

I was wondering about the cost comparison since cloves are so expensive. But when you make it yourself you get just what you want without too much effort.

Bonnie said...

Lil, this cider sounds delightful, I'm wondering if you strain all of the added ingredients? Probably a silly question... Thanks!

Kris said...

You are always on the lookout for new and better ways of doing things! I don't really care for most hot and sweet beverages--somehow the sweetness seems cloying to me when the beverage is hot--but my kids do enjoy those little hot cider packets when we camp (this seems to be a theme with me). I love the smell, however. This would be a great addition to a holiday potluck.

Lili said...

Live and Learn said...
I was wondering about the cost comparison since cloves are so expensive. But when you make it yourself you get just what you want without too much effort.


Hi Live and Learn,
I think that you and I have discussed the cost of spices and how you don't have many options for bulk spices in your area. You're right. Spices such as cloves are very expensive when bought in those tiny bottles. I buy spices either from bulk bins, where I can buy exactly how much I need, or in institutional-size containers from a restaurant supply. Although the price for whole cloves is high pr pound, 10 to 15 whole cloves bought from bulk bins would not be very high for me. The more expensive item for me would be the cinnamon sticks. What one could do with spiced cider, though, is use a pinch of ground cloves and reduce the cinnamon sticks to 1. I wouldn't use ground cinnamon in beverages because the texture of the cinnamon thickens and becomes slightly slimy in hot liquids. One benefit to using whole spices, though, is you can get more than one use out of them, for another batch of cider, other cooking, or crafts.

Alice said...

I'm thinking along Kris' line of thinking. It probably is too sweet for me but bring it to a holiday potluck would be kind of nice. And the benefit of the nice smell prior to bringing it to a potluck would satisfy me in place of drinking any of it.

Alice

Lili said...

Bonnie said...
Lil, this cider sounds delightful, I'm wondering if you strain all of the added ingredients? Probably a silly question... Thanks!


Hi Bonnie,
I would suggest straining out the spices, for sure, and maybe straining out the orange slices, depending on how large of a mug you're using and how large the orange slices are. I would leave a few cranberries in each cup, though. They're pretty and add a nice taste that contrasts with the sweetness of the cider. When serving this to my own family, I left an orange slice and a few cranberries in each cup. The orange slices are completely edible, although the peel has a bitter astringency to it. But the whole slice was softened from the simmering. One could also peel the oranges before slicing for simmering, and then the entire orange part would be edible and enjoyable by all. As I mentioned to Live and Learn, the whole spice pieces could be reuse in another batch, used in other cooking, or for crafts.

Lili said...

Kris said...
You are always on the lookout for new and better ways of doing things! I don't really care for most hot and sweet beverages--somehow the sweetness seems cloying to me when the beverage is hot--but my kids do enjoy those little hot cider packets when we camp (this seems to be a theme with me). I love the smell, however. This would be a great addition to a holiday potluck.


Hi Kris,
Thank you. I think when it comes to food and meal prep, I'm just trying to do the best with what I've got. Sometimes doing things the least expensive way saves time and effort, too.
I feel the same way about sweet coffee drinks. The commercial ones are just too sweet, more like dessert. I prefer to make my own at home where I can control the sugar.
The aroma is quite nice with this. And I agree, this would be nice for a potluck gathering.

Lili said...

Alice said...
I'm thinking along Kris' line of thinking. It probably is too sweet for me but bring it to a holiday potluck would be kind of nice. And the benefit of the nice smell prior to bringing it to a potluck would satisfy me in place of drinking any of it.


Hi Alice,
The aroma in itself is quite nice, I think. For a fall/winter gathering of family and friends, I like this sort of beverage in place of soda, for the aroma alone. But I understand the sweetness thing. When I mix up frozen juice concentrates, I've always added extra water, as regular juice seems too sweet to me.

Live and Learn said...

I'm with everyone else. I don't like hot, sweet beverages like hot cider, but I do like the smell from the spices. I thought I was alone in not liking them, but I guess not.

Lili said...

Everyone is entitled to their likes and dislikes, Live and Learn. I don't like overly sweet drinks. But I did enjoy this cider.

Sheri said...

Wow that looks beautiful. You could press the cloves into the orange rind even.

Anonymous said...

You dialed my number. Hot cider is one of my favourite things about fall. Right up there with cheery fires and cozy sweaters. My Grandmum always had a pot of cider on the stove when we'd visit at Christmas. Gingerbread men and a mug of cider after playing in the snow. I bet you make gingerbread men, too. Loraine

Lili said...

Sheri said...
Wow that looks beautiful. You could press the cloves into the orange rind even.


Hi Sheri,
That's a lovely idea. I think I may do that with the next batch. Thank you for your suggestion!

Lili said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
You dialed my number. Hot cider is one of my favourite things about fall. Right up there with cheery fires and cozy sweaters. My Grandmum always had a pot of cider on the stove when we'd visit at Christmas. Gingerbread men and a mug of cider after playing in the snow. I bet you make gingerbread men, too. Loraine


Hi Loraine,
What beautiful sentiments and memories! Your description of time spent with your Grandmum sounds like the type of grandmother I would like to be. And yes, I do make gingerbread men! Have a lovely day!

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