Chrimbo is upon us, the nights are dark and cold, and I have a 5 litre box of cider in my kitchen that I’ve been meaning to mull for the past few months. It’s really now or never to mull this stuff, so I decide to have a crack at it.
As a Christmas gift, I received two bottles of mulled wine/cider syrup. Two little bottles of pale liquid, that I’m instructed, via a Greyfriar’s Bobby postcard, to pour into a 75ml of wine or cider, for instant mulled wine/cider. Aside from this, I’ve gathered a range of traditional mulling ingredients. After reviewing numerous mulled cider recipes, I’ve decided on: cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, star anise, cloves, honey, light brown sugar, apples and, oh go on then, let’s chuck in some bay leaves, like Tom Kerridge did.
The food pairing for the mulled cider is some oak-smoked cheddar from Fresh and Wild, with Fortnum & Mason Quince Cheese, Morrisons Crackers, the remains of a packet of pistachio nuts, and some soya-free, hazelnut chocolate. A ciderkick is coming to join me for this epic test, but is running late and the temptation of cheese and cider is too great. I slice off the tip of the wedge and pour a glass of the raw cider, as the first stage of the tasting. The cheese is smoky like eating a bonfire, woody like gathered sticks, and the smell of your hoody after camping at a festival.
The Raw Cider
Using a half pint (300cl) glass–the sort you might rob from your local pub–and using the attached tap, fill a glass with cider. Drink neat, and definitely without ice.
The cider is clear-golden, smells quite woody, with a hint of brand new Action Man, just out the box. Already kind of warming. The taste is very dry. Almost no sweetness, despite the added sweeteners. Quite a sharp taste, almost a dry white wine. It’s certainly the best thing to do the job of removing the bonfire smoke from my gob. Cleans the palate, as they say in the business.
Mulled with Syrup
Pour 2 pints or 1 litre of raw cider into a saucepan, and place on a low heat. Add 2 small bottles of dubious-looking mulling syrup, received as a Christmas gift, but unlabelled. Do not add any other ingredients at this stage. Warm until gently simmering. When at the desired temperature, use a ladle to fill a glass mug.
…Shit, I don’t have a ladle or a glass mug. I crudely spoon out a few scoops into a half pint glass, and holding it, my hand starts to burn. A tea towel, wrapped around the glass, immediately gives relief and also looks classy. The taste is a bit spicy and very sugary. More than honey–maybe cough syrup or boiled sweets. I detect some cloves and maybe cinnamon in there. The bottles are a nice quick fix, but are lacking in something. This mull needs a kick, and the sweetness is near the top of whatever scale sweetness is measured in. Smarties?
Mulled with Ingredients
Cut 2 or 3 apples in half, any apples will do, I like Cox. Push up to 10 cloves into the cut side of each apple, before adding to the pan with the cider. Slice open the vanilla pods and remove the seeds before adding. Add all the remainder of the ingredients, and leave to heat.
It’s a good job there’s two of us doing this, as we struggle to understand how a vanilla pod works. I’m dubious that bay leaves have any taste at all, but they look fancy, so a couple go in. I only use one Cox apple, shoved full of cloves. The cider has been drunk down and added to, though there’s still a bit of the syrup left in there. I decide to miss out adding the brown sugar, as the syrup dregs should be enough.
Hmm, not bad, the vanilla has added a creaminess, but hot from all the spices, it has the smell and atmosphere of a German winter market. Well, we know the Germans are the best when it comes to Christmas. Not like a wet Sunday with a lager and hot dog in Hyde Park. The bay leaves add fuck all.
It’s possibly still a bit too sweet. I keep adding more of the unending box of cider, and the mulling becomes more and more dry tasting and very dry feeling, to the point of unpleasantness (I still drink it, though). Mind you, my ciderkick and I are surprisingly sober, and I wonder if a few shots of dark rum wouldn’t go amiss in the next batch. More for medicinal purposes.
The mulling is at an end and I’m quite pleased with the experiment and the result. WCF Hunt Farmhouse Medium, though dry on it’s own, was I believe, a very good base for a mulled cider. Plus, this five litre box seems to be the gift that keeps on giving, however much I believe there’s only a pint left, there’s still at least two pints in there. Well worth the money (£2.60 a pint)
Mulled: 5/5 if I do say so myself