1 gallon of apple cider
3 to 5 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp of whole cloves
1/4 to 1/2 cup brown sugar (optional)
Optional spices: whole nutmeg, star anise, cardamom seed (3 or 4 of each)
1 lemon or orange
Rum or brandy (optional)
Put the spices and cider into a large pot and heat to just under a boil, then turn down and keep the liquid at just below the simmering point for at least 20 minutes and up to an hour or more. Leave uncovered to let the aroma of the spices spread throughout the house.
Thinly slice lemons or oranges and place two or three slices in each mug. Add a spoonful of rum or brandy if desired. Use a ladle to pour the hot mulled cider into the mugs and enjoy with shortbread, mince pies or similar holiday dessert.