The mid-winter season often lends itself to reflection. It is a time for friends, resolution and resolutions, new plans, and hopefully joy. As the days start slowly to get longer again, I propose a toast:
To all my family and friends, be careful what you wish for, but I wish you peace. Here’s to absent friends, because of distances of any kind. To all who cut me off in traffic this past year I wish green lights that you may stay well in front of me. To all who failed to listen to others, I wish you joy of your own music. To all who promised what they could not possibly deliver, I hope for a slightly more realistic start to the new year.
OK, I’ll stop now, and let’s just share a drink.
Last night with friends I experienced a truly fine mulled cider. It is cold and snowy enough in western Pennsylvania this week to warrant a good warm drink, and what could be more appropriate to the season than mulled anything?
My father made wonderful mulled wine. I don’t make it often, but I certainly do like it. The warming effects of a hot cider or wine seem to last longer than tea or coffee, longer even than hot chocolate. I don’t know why; perhaps it is because one drinks it more slowly, savoring the complexity of the flavors… mmmm!
I can offer a few general suggestions, no matter what you decide to mull. I think mulled drinks work nicely in a crockpot as well as on the stove. The drink stays warm and it frees your cooktop burners for other dishes. Also, if you can, make either mulled cider or wine in an enamel or glass pot, some metal can react in an unfortunate manner to the acid in the wine. And, whether cider or wine, do not let it boil!
Here’s a very basic recipe. You can choose cider or wine (or some combination!) and play with the spices to suit your taste:
Simple Mulled Cider
1/2 gallon of good organic apple cider or two bottles of good red wine
1 each organic lemon and orange cut in thin slices, seeds removed
2 cinnamon sticks
1 inch of fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped in bits
1/2C sugar (if using wine)
Put the cider or wine in a large pot. Add the cinnamon sticks and citrus. If using wine, add the sugar and stir. Put the other spices in a tea ball and hang in the liquid. Warm very slowly, do not let even simmer. Stir every few minutes to incorporate the flavors. Taste regularly for sweet/tart and spice. Start it well before your guests arrive and your home will be happily fragrant. Its good to be the cook!
Enjoy with good friends, with appetizers or dinner or as an after-dinner drink, and with my warmest wishes for a safe, happy season.
If there is any left over, you can certainly cool and refrigerate it. Remove the citrus and spices before storing and reheat cup by cup as needed to keep the winter chill at bay.