Solstice 2014: Warmth
Winter is almost here. It brings with it not only the cold, wet, and dark time of year but also a dramatic increase in the consumption of hot beverages by all who live in our house. Most winter evenings aren't complete for me without a mug of steaming tea.
Often grandpa comes upstairs for his nightly "hello" just about the time we finish dinner. That's Wyatt's cue to ask him, "Grandpa, would you like a Swiss Miss?" and if he agrees we make him a hot chocolate and he joins us for hot drinks as we talk about the day. Given the rut the weather gets into around here, we make an effort to not get into one ourselves with the hot drinks. Some nights it's decaf or Pero with a bit of milk, others it is Market Spice herbal tea or Earl Gray with lemon. Occasionally it's a hot toddy. Wyatt likes hot cocoa, of course. But he's also a big fan of "kid tea," (which is Blackberry Zinger tea with some honey), a vanilla steamed milk, or a kid's version of a hot toddy sipped through a cinnamon stick (lemon, honey, hot water). This time of year, we seem to have cider on the stove more often too.
For special occasions I make a delicious mulled wine, but I've been wanting to create a similar drink that is non-alcoholic and more drinkable whenever we like -- something not as sweet as cider, too.
So here's my new version of mulled cider that is less sweet and a little spicy and fragrant. I think children and adults will both ask for refills. To you and yours this Solstice!
Solstice Mulled Cider
makes about a quart
2 cups apple cider or unfiltered apple juice
2 cups black current juice*
1 cinnamon stick
2-1/4" slices fresh ginger, peeled
a slice of orange
Gently simmer all these ingredients together for at least 30 minutes (longer is fine although it will begin to reduce). Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool to a temperature cooler than you want to drink (or room temp if you have the time). Taste and if you've used black current juice (not syrup) adjust the sweetness with a bit of sugar. Then heat again, stirring occasionally, to dissolve the sugar. When it's the drinking temperature you like, serve.
*You can use black current syrup instead, if that's all you can find, but be sure to dilute it with quite a bit of water to make a juice. It will make the cider much sweeter, too, so don't add sugar.
Optional Ballard-style add ins: Add a few golden raisins and blanched almonds and a thin 1/2 slice of orange in the mug before you fill it with the cider.
Photo: The supermoon from our driveway on March 19, 2011, Seattle, Washington.