Many years ago my husband, Paul, inherited a traditional at our church. On the Sunday before Christmas, we meet together during our second and third hours (yes, 3 hours) with treats and cider and share Christmas stories. Now, these aren’t stories about the year Santa brought you that super-cool toy you always wanted, these are stories that helped bring the spirit of Christmas specifically into your life. I remember one family would tell how they would go to IHOP to eat and they’d pick out someone in the restaurant and then anonymously pay that person’s bill. Or, someone who came home to find that their apartment and secretly been decorated for Christmas.
Paul inherited the job of making the cider and I love that he does it every year. And every year he gets numerous requests for the recipe. Unfortunately, there’s no real recipe. He, literally, just throws stuff in. A handful of this, a capful of that. I only had a cup of cider this year and our son didn’t get any, so we made another batch.
Paul’s Spiced Cider Recipe (makes about 5 gallons)
2 gallons apple juice (128 oz. each)
2 half-gallons pineapple juice (32 oz. each)
1 bottle orange juice (59 oz.)
1 bottle cranberry juice (32 oz.)
3 cups water
2 cups. brown sugar
6 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 Tablespoons whole allspice
2-3 teaspoons whole cloves (depending on preference)
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
A really big pot (or split into two pots or half the recipe)
1. Pour all liquids in a large pot.
2. Add spices and bring contents to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer with the lid on for 2 hours.
3. Let cider cool a bit and then pour through a strainer to extract the cloves, allspice and cinnamon sticks.
4. Using a funnel, pour cider back into the original juice containers to easily store in the refrigerator. Shake bottle before reopening, as spices will settle to the bottom.
We typically use the cheap stuff when making 15 gallons, but for last night’s batch we used these natural, organic juices. These don’t have as much sugar, so we ended up added another half cup of brown sugar and threw in a couple more caps full of spices and let it simmer some more. The cheaper generic juices tend to have more sugar in them, so you don’t need to add as much.
“It’s a to taste thing…” Truly, you can adjust this recipe to your own taste. It’s not rocket science. If your orange juice is only a 32 ouncer, don’t sweat it. It’s going to be fine. More cloves or less, do it. Once, we decreased the orange juice and increased the cranberry juice and it had a completely different, yet fantastic flavor.