Cranberries and apples are a great flavor combination. In the past, I've made a cake and stuffing with this dynamic duo that both turned out wonderfully. I usually make a large pot of hot apple cider for Thanksgiving, but I thought this year it would be fun to add fresh cranberries to the drink.
The tartness of the cranberries is a nice foil to the apple cider spices. And the color is a glorious crimson, which is perfect for the season. I couldn't think of a better cure for the absolutely freezing weather we've been having here (which in the Bay Area means a 65°F daytime temperature). Don't laugh; last night it got down to 40°F!
Servings: 8 servings
1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries, (3 cups)
2 quarts apple juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cinnamon sticks
2 Red Delicious apples
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup superfine sugar (or granulated sugar), as needed
1/2 teaspoon cherry extract (optional)
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Fresh cranberry juice: Wash the cranberries. Pick out and discard any bad ones (discolored, shriveled or bruised). In a saucepan, place the cranberries and a stick of cinnamon. Add 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 20-25 minutes, until the cranberries have burst. Stir frequently to prevent the cranberries from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Allow to cool a little and blend the mixture. Filter through a double-layered cheesecloth lined strainer and gather as much juice as possible. Discard the fruit pulp. Add the superfine sugar and cherry extract (if used) to the juice.
Apple cider: It's not necessary to peel or core the apples. Quarter them and stud the pieces with cloves. Place them in a large pot. Add brown sugar, the other cinnamon stick, the apple juice and salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 20-25 minutes, until fragrant. Add the lemon juice. Filter the apple cider through a fine mesh sieve or fine muslin cloth.
Assembly time: Add the cranberry juice to the apple cider. Warm the cranberry apple cider when you're ready to serve. Adjust the sweetness if necessary.
Ladle the drink into mugs. Decorate with fresh cranberries, apple slices or cinnamon sticks.
I used Red Delicious apples for their very sweet flavor but you can use any other kinds, such as Granny Smiths for a more tart flavor or Gala apples for a less tart / sweeter flavor.
Count about 1 part of sugar to 3 parts of cranberry juice, then sweeten it more (if needed) when serving. I added 3 tablespoons of brown sugar.