The last day of September marks the fourth beverage holiday in a row, an unprecedented stretch of drink-themed holidays. How you like them apples? A lot, if you celebrate today’s food holiday: 9/30 is National Hot Mulled Cider Day!
Autumn is the perfect time of year to enjoy a steaming mug of hot apple cider. The term “mull” refers to heating a liquid to just under the boiling stage, and adding spices (i.e. cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves) and citrus zest (such as orange peel). It is similar to wassail, though that beverage typically includes ale or beer. Actually, in most of the world, cider refers to a fermented alcoholic beverage, but in the U.S. we denote the liquored-up version as “hard cider.” As if that weren’t confusing enough, we can’t even seem to agree on the difference between apple cider and apple juice, though the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources states, “Apple juice and apple cider are both fruit beverages made from apples, but there is a difference between the two. Fresh cider is raw apple juice that has not undergone a filtration process to remove coarse particles of pulp or sediment. Apple juice is juice that has been filtered to remove solids and pasteurized so that it will stay fresh longer. Vacuum sealing and additional filtering extend the shelf life of the juice.”
I kind of wish this food holiday was occurring a couple of weeks later. Tara and I like to drive out to Hood River every October for the “Fruit Loop” – a meandering drive through the countryside to stock up on apples, pears, cider, and other bounties of fall from the various farm stands and stores scattered along the route. For now, we settled on a pint of apple cider from the grocery store. I added whole cloves and a cinnamon stick left over from our hot toddy challenge (which feels like a lifetime ago!), and grated some orange zest in there, as well. It turned out very good, and really hit the spot on a chilly, damp fall evening.