Quick Mulled Apple Cider

Ever since I made a gigantic crock pot of mulled wine for Thanksgiving last year, I have been loving hot mulled drinks this time of year.  I wanted to come up with one that didn’t take hours in a slow cooker, so I whipped up this recipe for quick stovetop apple cider!Ingredients:
2 pouches of instant apple cider plus 14 oz. of water, or, 14 oz. of prepared apple cider
4 whole cloves
4 whole peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half or cracked
1-inch piece of citrus zest (I used lemon, orange would work wonderfully too)
1 tsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. cinnamon liqueur
2 tsp. butterscotch schnapps (optional)

Serves 1 very large portion, or 2 regular portions.  Can be easily doubled, tripled, etc.  In fact, if you wanted to make a giant crock pot of this to cook on low all day, you can do that too!This is a super easy recipe.  It’s really all about the ingredients.  The small amount of sugar is added to cut the inherent tartness in the cider, and then the peppercorns and cloves are added to balance out that extra sweetness from the sugar.  Cooking is often a balancing act!

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Step 1:
Pour the apple cider (or water and apple cider powder) into a small saucepan along with the cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, sugar, and lemon. You can get a piece of lemon zest just using a regular vegetable peeler, but don’t cut too deep and get any of the bitter white pith.  Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, which should take about 5 minutes, stirring until the sugar and powder have dissolved and the cider is clear.
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Cover with a lid and turn the heat down to medium-low, or whatever output allows you to keep the cider at a gentle simmer.  Then just simmer away for 20 minutes! The kitchen will smell tantalizingly delicious.  Imagine cooking this up before you have guests over, and they are greeted by the amazing smell of hot apples and cinnamon bubbling away on the stovetop when they walk through the door….
Step 2: After 20 minutes, remove the pot from the burner and let it sit for a couple minutes with the lid on.  Then, the best part:
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Pour in the cinnamon liqueur and schnapps, if using, stir to combine and briefly take the edge off the alcohol, for just a couple seconds, then serve while piping hot!  I would recommend pouring through a little strainer to remove the broken bits of cinnamon stick that have probably formed.
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Notice how rich the color got, just in 20 minutes of stove time?A mug of this drink will make you want to have a festive party surrounded by twinkle lights this holiday season, or snuggle up under blankets and have a movie marathon on a chilly Sunday.  Both perfectly good options that we would advocate for this time of year. :)
Enjoy!
~Lauren
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