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This warm beverage smells as good as it tastes

Recipe: Mandarin mulled cider gets sweetness from fresh citrus

Apples and oranges (mandarins, that is) combine in a sweet, spicy and warm drink for cold days.

Apples and oranges (mandarins, that is) combine in a sweet, spicy and warm drink for cold days. Debbie Arrington

It’s apple cider season – which coincides with mandarin season. Put the two together and you get a mulled cider that smells as good as it tastes. While it’s warming, this fragrant mixture fills the kitchen with wonderful fall scents; it’s better than potpourri.

Whole spices and fresh citrus provide flavor.

Made from fresh pressed apples, apple cider tends to be a seasonal drink. Cider is minimally processed and without added sugar; that’s why cider tends to be tarter than apple juice. (Unless it’s fermented “hard” cider, there’s no alcohol.)

Mandarins add natural sweetness to cider as well as citrus zing. Lemon slices give this mulled cider a little more zest, too.

Cinnamon and cloves are a must for mulled cider. Using whole spices instead of ground keeps the cider from becoming grainy. Green cardamom pods give it more subtle sweetness. (Don’t use black cardamom; its flavor is too intense.) Nutmeg is another favorite addition as much for its scent as flavor.

Mandarin mulled cider

Makes 4 servings


1 quart (4 cups) apple cider

2 mandarins, thinly sliced and seeded

½ lemon, thinly sliced and seeded

2 cinnamon sticks

6 whole cloves

2 green cardamom seed pods (optional)

½ whole nutmeg, broken into pieces (optional)


The cider, citrus and spices are gently warmed.

In a large non-reactive saucepan, combine all ingredients. Over low heat, gently warm the cider, citrus slices and spices together. Bring it to a very low simmer, but do not boil. Heat for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Serve warm, straining out spice pieces. Garnish with a slice of mandarin and a cinnamon stick.


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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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