Tuesday, November 23, 2010

This is just like apple juice but warm and...ummm...BETTER!

As our Thanksgiving dinner guests arrive, we head out to the backyard for pre-dinner snacks and numbingly spiced hot apple cider. The cider stays warm in a crock-pot set on low, thus freeing up the stove. Place a ladle on a plate next to the pot and lay mugs out around it. Guests can serve themselves, giving you time to chat and do any last minute cooking. (If your crock- pot is already in use keeping a side dish warm, pour the cider into a carafe).

There is no alcohol in this cider so it can be served to everyone. Kids like it, especially if you add the extra brown sugar at the end of the recipe. Last year, a little eight-year-old M exclaimed, "This is just like apple juice but warm and...ummm...better!" 

For those guests who like a drink that makes them feel a tad friendlier, we place a bottle of spiced rum, a bottle of brandy and a bottle of whiskey behind the crock pot and let people know that they can pour a splash of something-something into their mug before ladling in the cider.

Everyone-Friendly Spicy Mulled Apple Cider
This recipe makes 14-16 mugs of cider and fits into a 3 quart (2.8 liter) crock-pot.

Pour 16 cups (64 FL OZ / 2 liters) apple juice* into a medium saucepan and place it over medium heat while you add the following:
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 large strips of orange zest, removed with a vegetable peeler
  • 3 tbsp whole cloves 
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg**
  • 12-15 whole peppercorns
  • 1-1 inch piece of fresh ginger cut into 5-6 pieces
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
Stir until the sugar dissolves. Continue to heat the pot over medium until it is almost at a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

Ladle a bit of the cider into a mug and taste it. You will likely need to add more brown sugar. I usually add 1/4 cup more (packed). If you prefer it to be sweeter, you may need as mush as a full cup.

Ladle the cider through a fine-mesh sieve  into a crock pot set to low or into a carafe.

Savor it Seminole!

*You may prefer to use apple cider rather than regular apple juice. If you do so, be extra careful not to bring the cider to a boil and do not leave it at high heat for very long. I've had apple ciders separate (have a curdled-type texture rise to the top of the pot) on more than one occasion. This never seems to happen with regular apple juice. Just in case though, I don't ever bring the apple juice up to a boil.

**This nutmeg grinder from Williams Sonoma is one of my favorite kitchen tools. It stores whole nutmeg seeds in the top. One seed is kept in the bottom where it is grated when you turn the handle of the device (the nutmeg dust floats downwards into whatever you're cooking). I found it a little hard to get used to at first but now I use nutmeg in dishes more often because the tool is so convenient: Just grab it and start grinding immediately. No need to wash anything afterward either. It's also more kid-friendly than a traditional grinder. My little J likes to turn the handle to see the little shavings fall out of the bottom and, of course, all over the counter.

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