I’m a sucker for hot beverages.

And while that usually means I drink a cappuccino and a few cups of tea every day, once the calendars turn to October, I switch to spiced apple cider.

But I’m not talking about those “just-add-hot-water” packets of sugar with apple-spice flavoring.

I’m talking about pressed apple juice, mulled with spices and citrus zests in a pot over the stove.

It’s the perfect drink for fall—like liquid apple pie. And minus the sugar, it’s quite healthy.

Plain apple juice is known to have anti-aging effects due to its high natural phenol content, in addition to vitamin C.

And the spices added to cider, such as cinnamon and cloves, have anti-inflammatory (as well as aphrodisiac) properties and aid in digestion, according to www.mindbodygreen.com.

I find that any spiced drink aids in curbing hunger. In fact, many store-bought teas that claim to help people lose weight, such as The Republic of Tea’s “Get Lost,” use these spices to help people resist cravings.

And mulled cider is incredibly simple to make.

R.W. Knudsen, a Chico-based fruit-juice company, sells their Organic Mulling Spices in tea bag form, which I find super convenient. Just steep the blend of cinnamon, cloves, ginger and citrus peels in a cup of hot apple juice.

But on the weekends when I have more time, I like to make a pot of my own cider where I can customize my spices.

In many fall foods, the spice mixtures are relatively the same: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.

But I like to use the not-as-common spices allspice and cardamom in addition.

Some are under the impression that ground allspice is a mixture of spices (probably because of its name). But in fact, it’s a dried berry native to Mexico. It’s called allspice because it tastes like a mixture of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.

And cardamom, one of my favorite spices, adds a Middle Eastern flair to any spice mixture—and it’s intensely aromatic with floral notes.

Adding citrus peels to the mulling spice mixture helps brighten the flavor and prevents the apple flavor from being overwhelmed by the spices.

And there are many other ways to personalize cider. Emeril Lagasse likes to add dark rum. And, of course, Paula Deen has a recipe for buttered apple cider. She adds a half-teaspoon of butter to each mug. (I’m not kidding.)

But that’s the beauty of apple cider—its recipe is based entirely on one’s preference.

Here’s my favorite:

Ingredients

1 tsp. whole cloves

3-4 dried allspice berries

3-4 cardamom pods, crushed

3 fresh cinnamon sticks

large pinch nutmeg

1 orange peel

32 oz. apple juice (no added sugar and not from concentrate)

Directions

In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients. Cook over medium heat and allow to simmer for two minutes. Allow to cool slightly. Ladle into mugs and garnish with optional cinnamon stick.

 

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