Tag Archives: Cook

Autumn: Time to Make Mulled Cider

by Danielle Charles

From The Teacup Chronicles

Basket of ApplesWhen the leaves begin to turn and the air turns chill, when the fields are full of pumpkins and browning cornstalks, then it is time for cider. It should be the official drink of autumn, if you ask me. When I see it arrive on the shelves at the store, then I know, beyond any conceivable doubt, that summer days are now behind me.

Last night we had our first frost warning, and the air turned brisk with the hint of winter on its breath. The wood-stove was lit for the first time, and to celebrate we put a pan of cider filled with spice on top to bubble away and fill the house with its comforting sweetness and warmth. I must say, the scent of wood smoke, the feel of a warm blazing fire, and the scent of apple marrying with cloves and cinnamon is one of the real pleasures of life. It almost (and I say almost) makes one excited about the cold.

Picture of some Spices for mulled cidarWhile plain ol’ cider is wonderful, mulled cider is a thing perfectly suited in all ways for a chilly day. To hold the warm mug in your hands, inhale steam laced with notes of apple and orange peel, taste sweetness and feel the spice in your belly – is warming in a deeply comforting way. We make it often on those brisk autumn evenings, sipping it huddled next the stove and listening the crackling of wood and wind howling down the chimney.  It is a yearly tradition, a ritual.

Aside from the usual warming spices, I like to throw in a handful of some rooty goodness as well: a little astragalus and Siberian ginseng, two roots that bolster the immune system and help the body adapt to the stress of seasonal changes. Both taste slightly sweet and mostly bland, so they lend little in flavor, but lots in goodness. Paired with all those blood moving, digestive fire kindling and antioxidant packed spices, mulled cider is not only delicious but a health-tonic as well!

A variety of spices can go into mulled cider, and it’s really up to personal preference (or for me, fishing around the spice cabinet and seeing what calls) what you will put in.  While the ingredients vary from night to night in our house, they most often include the following: a few thin slices of fresh ginger;  the zest of an orange; a few cinnamon sticks; a few cloves and star-anise pods; a bit of mace; a few juniper and allspice berries; a vanilla pod and a handful of astragalus and Siberian ginsing roots.  I’ve also been known to throw in some hawthorn berries, a few cardamom pods or even a bay leaf when the mood takes me.

The mulled Cider brothAll the ingredients are put into a pan with a half-gallon of cider, and left to simmer on very low heat (or perched atop the wood-stove) for a good 20-30 minutes with a cover on.  Once it’s mulled to your liking, strain it into mugs and top off with a bit of rum if it’s an extra cold night.

Cheers to the beginning of autumn!

ABOUT

Danielle Charles is a clinical herbalist living in central Vermont, USA.

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COOKING & CULINARY ACTIVITIES ON ZENERGO

Zenergo is a free activities-focused social manager for active adults networking through their real-life interests. On Zenergo you can create activities, groups and events around Cooking and the Culinary Arts, and other food and drink topics such as baking, barbeque, vegetarian cuisine, and chocolate, as well as wine and beer appreciation, fine distilled spirits and mixology, beer brewing and winemaking. Please visit the site at http://www.zenergo.com to learn how more about how Zenergo can Activate Your Life.

How to Plan Your Labor-Day BBQ

By Mac McCarthy, Zenergo

Throwing a BBQ this holiday weekend? It’s the end of summer, a perfect time to celebrate, reminisce, spend time with friends while the weather is still great.

If you invite more than a handful of people, a bit of planning and organizing can be a big help in guaranteeing your BBQ will turn out great. Let me recommend a social manager site like Zenergo.com as a good way to organize: You can send invites, and you and your guests post pictures after the BBQ for all to enjoy.

Here are a few tips to ensure a great, well-run event:

* Send invites right away! The RSVPs will tell you how much food and drink you’ll need to get. Even if you plan to handle RSVPs personally or by phone, at least you’ll get on their calendars.

* Decide on the menu, and let your guests know. It can be simple and straightforward — “Meat, all kinds, on the barbie! And drinks!” Or you can get fancy, interesting, inventive – maybe have a theme — “Goodbye Summer, We’ll Miss You!”

* Let guests know what they can bring or contribute. Many people enjoy it more if they can help out in some way.

* Where? Your back yard? The local park? (Does the local park make you sign up for a space, or is it first-come first-serve, in which case send the kids over early to hold a good spot.)

* Hours? All day and well into the evening? Lunch only? Mid-afternoon to early evening? Let people know what to expect.

* Gather your gear: BBQ, instruments, tables, chairs enough for everyone, condiments, utensils, plates and glasses, beverages for all (remember the kids). Have reserves because you’ll run out of *something,* you can be sure!

* Plan the area layout: Where goes the BBQ? Closer to the house/kitchen to make it easy to carry food and utensils out and dirty dishes back; but not too close so you don’t fill the house with smoke (or flames!). Where to put the Tables? Make sure at last some tables and chairs are in the shade, please! Put the kids farther away from the grill and the food table, for safety’s sake. Think about the flow — people come here to pick up plates, there to get the cooked food, here for condiments, there for appetizers, and over there for tables and chairs, and where are the drinks?

* Prep the area: Does the grass need mowing? The yard need cleanup? (That’s what kids are made for!) Do your guests need signs posted pointing to the party location?

* Things to Do: Games for the kids, lawn games, party games. What about the adults? Do they like an active party, with lots of things to do? Or do they prefer to sit around, drink, eat, chat, and enjoy the peace and quiet?

* Practice: The day of BBQ isn’t the time to start learning how your brand-new rocket-science cooking system works – or how to BBQ if you’ve never done it before! If you need practice — then practice! Throw a small BBQ event for yourself and your family first, work the kinks out….!

* Weather: Will it be an issue? If so, have a Plan B. If it’s hot and sunny, is there enough shade?, consider a pop-up shade tent or canopy.

* Decorations, or no? Lots of ways to go here: Bright table cloths, balloons, hanging decorations from the trees, stapling them to the house — even wearing decorative hats, and aprons with funny sayings.

* Music? A CD player can add nice background ambience, as long as it’s not too loud — nor too experimental!

* Leftovers! Remember to have containers you guests can take home….!

* Here’s an example of a BBQ event created on Zenergo. You can put as many details as you like, including a map of the location if needed. It’s free, it’s easy, give it a try!