Friday, March 06, 2009

Apple Cider Taste Test

Apple Cider Taste TestAbout a year ago I mentioned our family's habit of doing periodic taste tests and we did another one this past week only we moved on from vanilla ice cream to apple cider.

I'd come across a Cooking Light magazine article for six varieties of apple cider so I made up a couple pots of the basic recipe then took it five different ways and set out to test which was the best.

Here are the recipes along with our feelings about each variety.

Basic Apple Cider:
2 quarts apple cider (not apple juice)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
15 whole cloves
10 whole allspice
2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks

Combine the cider and sugar and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Add the remaining ingredients (if you can't find the allspice pods you can use a dash of the ground stuff) and bring to a boil then let it simmer for about 10 or 15 minutes. Then strain out the cinnamon stick and the pods and the cloves and serve.

Vanilla-Pomegranate Apple Cider:
This time, just before the cider reaches a boil split open a vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds inside. Reduce the heat and add 2 cups of pomegranate juice and let it simmer for 15 minutes.

Orange-Apple Cider:
If you like a touch of citrus in your cider zest one orange (I used a blood orange then squeezed a bit of the juice in as well) while the basic recipe is simmering then serve.

Cranberry-Apple Cider:
For this batch when the cider reaches a boil reduce the heat and stir in 1 cup of fresh cranberries and 2 cups of cranberry juice and let it simmer for 15 minutes then serve.

Vanilla Cider:
After fixing the standard batch of cider serve it up with a spoonful of vanilla ice cream on top.

Rosemary Cider:
Before the basic recipe comes to a boil throw in three four-inch sprigs of fresh rosemary then reduce the heat and let it all simmer for 15 minutes, strain and serve.

Just for future reference apple cider is quite different from apple juice in that cider hasn't been strained and shouldn't be clear the way apple juice is clear. That will make a difference in your final product though you can still make these recipes with apple juice and have them taste darn good.

Surprisingly enough Andrew and I liked the rosemary cider the best, hands down. You might think it's odd to combine a piney flavor such as rosemary with the sweetness of an apple but darn it if it wasn't a party in my mouth. It was subtle and pleasant and not at all overpowering.

A close second for me was the vanilla-pomegranate which had a fun sharpness to it that was nicely complimented by the mellowness of the vanilla. A nice variation on the theme.

Grace and Lillian liked the kind with the ice cream in it the best. That was pretty predictable, ice cream has a way of selling itself like that.

We all agreed that the cranberry-apple was too strong but I think that was my fault. I had made up a double batch of the basic recipe and pulled out enough for each of the other five kinds and left the cinnamon sticks, cloves and allspice in the pot which I made into the cranberry mix and I think leaving the spices in there that extra amount of time made it too strong. Oops.

David liked the orange-apple batch and Spencer was a vanilla-pomegranate fan.

So there you have it, before the weather gets too warm make up a batch and decide which you prefer. (Go rosemary!)

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Serena said...

Rosemary--that's so interesting! The Vanilla Pomegranate sounds delicious. Maybe with the vanilla ice cream on top. ;)

Jennifer said...

Actually, I'm not surprised by the rosemary... I have a rosemary and honey marinade for honeydew of all things that is always a winner.

Though, it is too warm for cider here in FL, I've e-mailed this to myself for next winter.

jacjewelry said...

What a fun activity! I would not have expected rosemary to be the winner, but then again, the most unexpected combinations are usually the best!

Ann On and On... said...

That was cool and a lot of work on your part. They all sound good to me.

Diane said...

We take the easy way out on cider here. Our local store has blueberry, raspberry, pomengranate and a few new ones lately.
But your flavor combinations sound much more interesting.

Michele said...

They sound like interesting combindations. I'm a plain jane person myself, so I'd probably like that one the best. Having said that, it's going to be in the 70's this weekend in Virginia (after 6 inches of snow last week!) so I'm looking forward to iced teas and lemondade. :-)

Jolanthe said...

Looks tasty! This would be fun to do with our kids when they are a little older...and a little more apt to have taste buds a wee bit more adventurous. :)

Suzie B. said...

Wow! I have never had cider any way except plain! Something new to try.

Sarah @ said...

The whole vanilla-pomegranate thing sounds pretty tasty, but I just know it's deceptive. I have yet to meet a cider I like, but then you give it a name like that and I want to run out and try to make 50 gallons of it RIGHT NOW.

Lol. Okay maybe not 50 gallons, but I guess we all know what I'll be up to this weekend!

ames said...

Ooh, what a yummy taste test! They all sound heavenly, but the scoop of vanilla ice cream might just put it over the top.

My mom likes to keep a slow cooker of spiced cider on low all day during wintery weekends so you can grab a hot cup as soon as you get your boots off :)

Randy, Ally, and Wes said...

Yum . . . something to try since spring has decided not to come after all . . . (not that I'm bitter!). I love the taste test idea as well--very fun family activity.

Sheri said...

I'm going to have to try some of these with my family. Thanks for the idea!!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

See, now making several batches of apple cider is something I say I'd like to do, but you actually do it. :)

I think I'd like them all.

kari and kijsa said...

Sounds delicious!
kari & kijsa

branda50 said...

Our cider is at it's best in the Fall..I am going to try them out on my friends when it's my turn to host "game night"...
I have put sprigs of rosemary in ice water and let steep for a refreshing cold drink in the summer...

~3 Sides of Crazy~ said...

I didn't know there were so many flavors of cider. I'm going to have to check this out!

illahee said...

mmmmm. i've never seen apple cider here (but that doesn't mean it's not available. i just don't know) and those look yummy!

Madeline said...

Actually, the rosemary sounded the best to me, but I'm a huge rosemary fan. I can't wait to try it.
This is my first trip to your blog, and I'm loving it!!

MoziEsmé said...

What a fun idea! I'm thinking vanilla pomegranate would be my favorite - but I just might try the rosemary one this week since I'm more likely to find those ingredients...

Amber said...

Hmmmmm, I love this! I was looking at your pomegrante lamb stew recipe above and thinking how good that sounded. But vanilla pomegrante? I have bookmarked this recipe!

Seeker said...

Yum. I'll definitely have to try the rosemary cider. That sounds delicious. My husband was raised on an apple farm and says the real secret to apple juice and/or cider is the blend of apples. He won't even drink a cider that has only one type of apple in it.

Stephanie said...

I love apple cider. I think it's my favorite cold weather drink.

I never would have thought to add rosemary though. It seems a bit strange...but I'd be up for trying it.

Mary@notbefore7 said...

OH yum. My 6 year old loves hot cider. Maybe it is time to experiment a little :0)