I am in a unique and wonderful position here at Stardock in that I genuinely enjoy spending time with my colleagues. Many of us spend time outside of work hours playing board games, slaying monsters in Dungeons & Dragons, or critiquing new and popular films out at the theater together.
Once in awhile, our amazing operations team plans an outing for us so we can all get out of the office and enjoy some teambuilding activities. Autumn is widely celebrated in Michigan as cider season, and since we are blessed with so many beautiful apple orchards here we're lucky enough to be able to go and enjoy all of the fun that goes along with it.
What does "fun" look like at the apple orchard? It comes in many forms, but in the case of our trip it was a hay ride, a trip through a corn maze, and then roasting marshmallows and eating sugary cider donuts around a toasty bonfire. You can check out a video of our cider mill trip here if you like!
If you're unfamiliar with the concept of a corn maze, it's pretty much just what it sounds like: several paths are made in a corn field at the end of the corn harvesting season and people are turned loose within to find hidden stations. When you reach a station, you punch your card with the associated symbol and then enter it into a drawing for a prize later.
After the tractor picked us up again, we headed back to our bonfire pit. We had an hour or so to just relax and visit with one another while we roasted marshmallows, drank delicious fresh-pressed cider, and devoured cinnamon-sugar cider donuts - a beloved delicacy here in Michigan!
After we sugared ourselves up, we headed home so that we could start our weekend! The first thing I did when I got back (aside from flurry-cleaning my house before my company arrived) was put some cider in a pot on the stove and heat it up with some mulling spices. It's one of my favorite treats for when the weather starts to turn cold! If you can get your hands on some good apple cider, you should absolutely try this - my recipe is below.
Kristy's Mulling Spice Recipe
- 3-4 cinnamon sticks
- 4 whole nutmeg
- 1/4 cup star anise
- 1/4 cup dried orange peel, coarsely chopped
- 3 tablespoons whole allspice
- 3 tablespoons whole cloves
- 1 tablespoon crystalized ginger, finely chopped (add more ginger for a bit more zip!)
Combine the cinnamon sticks and nutmeg in a plastic bag together. Smash the bag with a rolling pin or meat tenderizer to break them up into smaller pieces.
Combine the contents of the plastic bag with everything else and mix well. Store in an air-tight container. You can also opt to separate the mixture into small cheesecloth pouches or pre-made teabags, but I prefer to just toss it all into the cider loosey-goosey.
To make mulled cider:
Add 1-2 tablespoons of the mix to about 3 or 4 cups of fresh cider and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and let simmer for about 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and pour into mugs. You can strain out the spices if you prefer, but I usually leave them in.
I also like to add fresh orange slices, cranberries, and/or apple slices if I'm feeling fancy.
Add a splash of bourbon or whiskey if you're of age and feeling spicy!
These spices also taste absolutely delicious when combined with a bottle of red wine and heated up over the stove.
Are you a cider mill fan? Tell me about what kinds of autumn traditions are alive in your area!