Recipe: Hot Spiced Cider Punch

For Bookworm, with love.

This is the basic for-a-crowd recipe that I always make around Thanksgiving and Christmas — with everybody hanging around the house, it just sits in a big pot on the stove, next to the mugs and the ladle, and I add to it as needed through the day. I don’t know how to cut it down for fewer servings, unless you were to make it once and freeze it in small batches.

I have, in the past, taken the time to deliberately dry orange and lemon peels (see link for a how-to) and store them for use in this cider punch, and that works fine. However, I find that we typically have citrus fruit in the house this time of year anyway since the high school FFA citrus orders arrive the first or second week of December, so I just slice up fresh and add them to the pot.

This recipe has a lot of stretch and give to it, and will accept any number of substitutions, so long as you keep tasting and adjusting. Like it sweeter? add a little more brown sugar, or maple syrup if you have it on hand.
Like it tangy? Add a bit more lemon juice, or leave the sugar out.
I love spice, so I throw lots of cloves and ginger in, but you can adjust the amounts of whole spices however you like. Add a few green cardamom pods or whole star anise if you have access to them (I don’t). If you hate having stuff floating around in your cup and don’t have a strainer to ladle the punch through, you can tie up the spices in a cheesecloth bag.
If you can’t find cider at the grocery, wing it with apple juice instead. Use the frozen juice concentrates if you have to. Because there are are so many flavors in this punch, I can’t taste that much difference. Cider does have more “body” than plain juice, but it is considerably more expensive, too. You decide; either way it will be good.
I tend to buy decaffeinated tea because there are people in my family who are very sensitive to caffeine, but of course the regular works fine.
Like it spiked? Add in a few ounces of bourbon, applejack, or spiced rum, to your taste.
See? That sort of thing. Play with it, have fun. I always enlist Bookworm as my taste-tester when she’s home.

Ingredients:
3 quarts to 1 gallon apple cider or apple juice
2 whole oranges, sliced (or substitute 1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, or 3-4 large pieces of dried orange peel)
1 whole lemon, sliced (or substitute 2 tablespoons of juice – bottled is fine)
2-3 individual teabags of black tea, chai, Earl Grey or herbal spice (or combination)
2-4 cinnamon sticks, broken (I hit them with a meat tenderizer – small pieces give more cinnamon flavor)
1-2 tablespoons whole cloves
1/2 – 1 tablespoon whole allspice berries
3-4 small pieces crystallized ginger, or 1-2 peeled disks of fresh ginger
1/4 to 1/2 cup brown sugar, to taste

(For variety, I sometimes add a thawed can of this apple-cherry juice, and a cup of water. The apple-cranberry juice is good, too.)

Directions:
Pour juice or cider into a large pot and add the citrus slices and whole spices. Heat over medium-low heat until mixture begins to simmer (tiny bubbles forming at the bottom, and/or wisps of steam rise from the top). Then turn heat to very low.

Steep the teabags for 4 minutes separately in 2-3 cups of boiling water. Then, unless you are only using herbal tea (such as Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice), remove the teabags from the liquid. Heat and time will make black tea taste bitter. Add this brewed tea to the cider mixture, and then add brown sugar until you’re happy with the taste.

Ladle through a strainer to remove the spices and citrus peels. Enjoy!

 

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6 thoughts on “Recipe: Hot Spiced Cider Punch”

  1. I can confirm that 1). I am the designated taste tester and I love my job 2) apple cherry juice is delicious and 3). you can play with this a lot. I often add fresh clementine peels to the pot (C’mon, what else am I going to do with the peel when I want to eat one?) and I think we’ve also added orange juice and/or Tang in the past. It’s a “chuck stuff in the pot until it tastes good” type of recipe. I’m not sure it’s ever been made exactly the same way twice, but it’s still always good. I’m not the only one who requests it at Christmas dinner.

    A word of warning, however: Don’t leave it heating on the stove all day and walk away from it. It’s fine if you’re keeping an eye on it and adding more liquid periodically but DO NOT LET IT BOIL DRY. It turns into a black sticky gunk at the bottom of the pot and then the smoke detectors might go off and there’s not even any cider left to drink. Don’t go there.

    It can be stored in the fridge and quickly heated up by the mugful. You could drink it cold, I guess, but why? Seriously, WHY? Stick it in the microwave for 80 seconds.

    For best results, drink while curled up on the couch under a blanket in front of a fire after coming in from being outside in the cold, preferably while watching college football, although the Lord of the Rings or Star Wars movies work pretty well too.

    1. BWA-HA-HA!!! I remember that time I left it on the stove while I went to work and you kids were home from school because you had a snow day… I had to throw that pot away.

      You are the bestest taste-tester.

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