1 Prep the broccoli: Separate the broccoli florets from the stems. Peel the outer tough skin of the stems with a vegetable peeler. Slice the stems into rounds and chop finely (a mini chopper food processor works well for this step).
2 Cook the sliced onions and apples in butter: Heat a thick-bottomed medium large (4-quart) saucepan on medium heat. Melt the butter in the pan. Add the onion and the apple and lower the heat to low. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, until onions are translucent and apples are softened.
3 Add broccoli, stock, cider, thyme, lemon zest: Add the broccoli florets and the chopped broccoli to the apple onion mixture. Add the stock and the cider.
Tie up the thyme sprigs with kitchen string and add to the pot. Add strips of lemon zest to the pot as well.
Increase the heat, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer, covered. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes.
4 Purée soup: Remove from heat. Remove thyme and lemon peels from the soup (discard)! Working in batches, filling up the blender bowl to no more than one third full at a time, purée the soup.
5 Adjust seasonings: Return soup to the pot, reheat and adjust seasonings to taste. Garnish with chopped fresh chives to serve.
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