Until recently, I had never heard of Marlene apples, a leading Italian brand of gourmet apples grown in South Tyrol. The apples carry the PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) label which certifies they were grown in this beautiful region of the Alps — a region that profits from extremely favorable weather conditions (it boasts more than two thousand hours of sunlight per year!) and rich, fertile soils. This results in apples that are very aromatic, juicy and have an excellent bite. The apples are grown by approximately five thousand producers according to high quality standards.
There are seven varieties of Marlene apples, each one with its own unique characteristics and special taste. From the Red Delicious with its deep ruby color and wonderful crunch to the Braeburn with its firm flesh (excellent for pies and other baked goods). In the Netherlands, you can find the apples at specialized produce shops.
Though in my opinion apples are best enjoyed on their own as a snack or chopped into a green salad, I wanted to develop a recipe that uses two of my favorite apple varieties. I came up with a seasonal spiced apple cider using two of the juiciest apples, the tart Granny Smith and the aromatic Fuji, which also has a high sugar content and is very fragrant.
I really think you’ll like this recipe, and once you see how easy it is, you’ll be making it as soon as the colder months roll around. It’s a wonderful seasonal drink and a highly recommended alternative to mulled wine, especially if you give it a little ‘oomph’ with a hit of dark rum. Without the booze, you can even consider it a health drink as it is chock full of flavonoids which are excellent at zapping free radicals!
The only thing you will need is some patience. You will want the apples and aromatic spices to gently simmer for at least six hours and then steep overnight. After that, you strain everything well, bring back to the boil, sweeten, and add rum if desired. Cheers!
PS: This is NOT a sponsored post. I do not and will not accept money to promote brands with misleading claims. I received a press sample of Marlene apples and truly enjoyed them.
Spiced Apple Cider
- 4 large Granny Smith apples, cored and cut into eighths
- 4 large Fuji apples, cored and cut into eighths
- 1 untreated orange, studded with 8 cloves
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 2 star anise
- 2 L water
- 3 tbsps honey
- brown rum, if desired
Put all of the ingredients (except the honey and rum) in a large pan, bring to the boil, cover and reduce to a simmer. Allow the mixture to simmer very gently for 6 hours. Then, remove the pan from the heat and leave covered overnight (no refrigeration necessary). The next day, remove the orange and give everything a final mash with a potato masher. Remove the cinnamon sticks and star anise. Place a large piece of cheesecloth over a large bowl and carefully pour in the mixture. Allow most to drain and then squeeze out as much as possible with your hands. Wash the pan in which you cooked the cider. Pour the cider into the pan through a fine mesh sieve and bring to the boil. Stir in the honey and serve. Add brown rum if desired.