Here's a cozy, super easy recipe for an adaptogenic apple cider. It's naturally sweet, gently spiced with vanilla and cinnamon, and infused with dried chaga mushrooms which impart their goodness into this lovely warm drink.
During a quick trip to Toronto early December, I popped into one of my favourite healthy eateries to pick up lunch for a friend and I. While I was waiting for our order, I noticed a fridge full of jewel-toned juices and amongst them was something called "Chaga Cider", spiced with peppercorns, cacao nibs, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and chaga mushroom. I was intrigued. I had intended on picking up a bottle to bring home, but time got away from me and I didn't have a chance before leaving the city.
The idea of chaga cider stayed pretty front of mind as the holidays approached, and I picked up a jug of apple cider to experiment with. I have tried a few versions of these chaga-infused ciders, one with all the ingredients listed on the bottle that inspired me, and a few other variations including star anise with orange slices. I've settled on a simple, but absolutely delicious version to share here: dried chaga mushrooms, vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, and apple cider. It's familiar, but amplified in terms of flavour and nourishment as chaga mushrooms are known as potent adaptogens. Vanilla is a natural pairing to chaga, as some find that tea made from chaga has mild notes of it. Cinnamon is my favourite spice to add to ciders, and as expected, it's delicious in combination with chaga too.
McKell wrote a helpful post that summarizes some of the medicinal mushrooms, and their special properties - check it out here if you're interested in learning more! I thought I'd share a few ways that I have incorporated mushrooms into my diet over the last couple years, for anyone unfamiliar or unsure where to start. I like to brew chaga as a tea on a weekly basis (sometimes with a vanilla bean) and then use it as the base to my morning cacao tonic. More and more, mushrooms like chaga, cordyceps, and reishi are popping up in superfood powder blends and recipes, and I like to add a mushroom blend to my tonic-type drinks when I don't have brewed chaga tea on hand. There are several nice ones out there, and I'd suggest looking at Sun Potion, Moon Juice, Four Sigmatic, Wild Rose, Giddy Yoyo or the Cacao Magic blend by Philosophie. I also like to use dried shiitake mushrooms in my homemade broths. I make homemade chocolates pretty regularly at home, and the mushroom powders go really nicely for a little boost. Ashley Neese shared a recipe for mushroom-spiked chocolates awhile back, check it out! The immuno-mushroom chocolate by Sacred Chocolate is my very occasional splurgy treat because it's far and away the best raw chocolate I've ever tasted. I'm obsessed.
The idea of incorporating dried mushrooms and mushroom powders may seem a bit weird at first, but I promise their flavour is pretty mild and actually goes really nicely with things like chocolate or spices like cinnamon and that brings me back to this cider recipe. It smells gorgeous as it simmers on the stovetop with chaga, vanilla and cinnamon and it makes such a cozy mugful. Apple cider is something my husband and I begin to crave every October, and the love goes pretty strong every year until about March. I hope you guys enjoy this cozy, adaptogenic drink as much as we do :)
p.s. I've been meaning to share tips, recommendations, and general photos from my trip to Morocco for quite some time now (I promise, eventually it'll happen...) but in the meantime, I just wanted to tell you guys that we spent the weekend making some progress on decorating our family room. The walls are painted but still bare, and we still need to source a few more pieces of furniture, but it feels amazing to see it come together. I shot these photos down there with a some of my favourite souvenirs from the trip: that rug, the blanket, and the cups. It still makes me so happy to reminisce on that holiday and the amazing memories made with one of my closest friends.
p.p.s. I tend to set one or two intentions for the new year, but often forget to take some time and purposefully reflect on the year that's passed. This year, I wanted to change that and the past couple weeks have been spent making memory lists, thinking about the lessons that I've learned (some hard-won), and the hopes I have for 2017. I'd recommend a similar approach to anyone that wants to go into this new year with a sense of gratitude and intention.
I purchased these dried chaga mushroom chunks (they look a little like cacao nibs in the photos) at my local health food store. Chaga may seem pricey at first glance, but buying the "tea cut" format like this actually let's you reuse the mushrooms multiple times (the package says it'll re-brew between 3-6 times). The ratio for chaga tea, as well as this cider, is 1/4 - 1/3 cup to 1 litre of liquid so a package this size allows for many brews. The vanilla bean and cinnamon stick can also be re-used for additional brews. Once brewed, you can serve the cider right away or allow it to cool and store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Gently reheat to serve.
1/3 cup chaga mushroom chunks (tea-cut)
1 litre apple cider
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 a vanilla bean
Use a sharp knife to gently cut a slit in the vanilla bean, to expose the seeds. Add the chaga, apple cider, cinnamon stick and vanilla bean to a pot and turn the heat to medium. Allow the cider to come to a gentle simmer. Once simmering, infuse the cider for a minimum of 15 minutes. The cider will reduce slightly as it simmers.
Pour the cider through a fine mesh sieve to strain out the chaga chunks, cinnamon stick and vanilla bean. Serve the cider hot, or allow to cool to store in the fridge. Reheat cider gently over low heat to serve.
Allow the used chaga, cinnamon and vanilla to cool, then store in the freezer between brews.