The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Secret Ingredient: Long Pepper For Mulled Cider And Wine

By Melissa McEwen in Food on Nov 14, 2014 8:30PM

(Shutterstock Wikstory/Antonio Gravante)

While many dread winter's chill, mulled wine and cider (or even mead) is something we always look forward to. There is nothing quite like a thermos of fragrant hot spicy cider after a very cold walk home. Typical mulling blends contain common spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger and allspice. But there is one spice that has a long history of being used to mull, but has largely been forgotten. That's long pepper, and it's a shame you hardly ever see it, because it imparts a deep, earthy and complex flavor to hot cider and wine, preventing it from tasting boringly sweet.

Long Pepper (Piper longum) is from the same family as common black pepper, but physically resembles chili peppers in many ways, particularly when fresh. And before the Columbian Exchange brought chilis to places like Indonesia and Thailand, it was used in many dishes that are now laced with chilis. Europe is where it was probably first used to flavor hot wine, in a drink called Ypocras, very similar to glögg and gluhwein. Early written recipes date back to the 14th century.

We grabbed some long pepper from Epic Spices (1725 W. Chicago Ave) and added it to our mulling blend for Seedling cider. Mulling blends are more art than science, so feel free to adjust based on what spices you fancy. Epic Spices also sells a pre-made mulled spices blend that is excellent and you can just add some long pepper.

Our Mulled Cider Blend With Long Pepper

1 Tablespoon long pepper crushed under mortar and pestle
1 Tablespoon crushed cinnamon stick
1 Tablespoon dried ginger
1 Tablespoon cloves
1 Tablespoon dried orange peel
1 Tablespoon cardamon pods
1 Tablespoon star anise
1 Tablespoon allspice

Mix together evenly. You can store in a jar for future use. Makes an excellent gift.

Add one tablespoon per cup of apple cider. Add cider and spices to pot and bring to very low simmer. Simmer on low for 20 minutes, filter out the spices, and serve. It never hurts to add a nip of whiskey, of course.

For wine, try this excellent recipe.