Apple cider is simply delightful. I was reminded of that again this fall. A cup of mulled cider, I’d argue, is better than a glass of red wine at the end of the day or with dinner. And even though it tastes just like biting into an apple, it won’t get bruised or mealy while it’s sitting in your fridge.
I believe that the reasons for cider’s attraction can be broken into the chemical and the psychological.
The chemical part is easy. The beverage contains an ideal balance of concentrated fruit sugars and tart acids, combined with high levels of yumminess. These factors create a pleasing flavor on the tongue.
On the psychological side, cider hits the shelves in earnest right when the weather is turning cold. Personally, as soon as the weather requires sleeves of any length, I start looking for the nearest cozy cave. I think most of us crave something warm and comforting right about now, but the grocery stores haven’t yet stocked–and we don’t want to admit that we need–supplies for scalding tea and hearty stew. And the cool thing about cider is that it can follow the blips and burps of the season. Drink it cold if you have a freakish warm spell in October, then heat it up when you get a chilly night.
Even the process of preparing hot cider is just right. You can pour it into a pot and simmer it on the stove. The smell fills the house, filling the air that’s a little stuffier now since you’ve closed the windows against the cold. Cider is also something to you can offer to anyone–even a large group–and know that you won’t break the bank and everyone will like it. The hotel at Gallaudet offers free hot cider to anyone who comes any time of the day for the entire fall and most of the winter. Apple cider situates itself perfectly at the intersection of flavorful, available, likable, affordable, and heatable.
Although in most other places “cider” means the fermented alcoholic drink, in the U.S. we still make a distinction. I like that. That stuff is hard cider, while the tasty stuff you can give to hotel patrons, 20-somethings, grandparents, and trick-or-treaters alike is just plain apple cider …and it’s delish.
Here’s a quick mulled cider recipe:
Pour a few cups of apple cider into a saucepan and start to heat on medium-low. Throw in a few whole cloves, cardamom pods, sticks of cinnamon, and/or pieces of star anise. Simmer for 10-20 minutes. I like to add a little water partway through to keep it from boiling down and getting too sweet. Now strain and pour into a big mug that requires both hands to hold. Sip and smile.