Mulled Cider and A Fall Party
On Friday we threw fall a party. It’s the least we could do, really. When I think of all the gifts fall brings us every year – breathtaking scenery, cool temperatures, crisp blue skies…it even manages to do away with those pesky mosquitoes! – honoring it with some sort of celebration seemed like a small but necessary gesture.
So we went out and gathered the ingredients that the season made readily available. We concentrated mainly on apples and asked friends to bring whatever stroke their fancy.
Someone brought a delicious curried sweet potato dip, while someone else brought a mouth-watering pumpkin cheesecake.
I made baked goat cheese with honey and apples, a combination lusciously tart and sweet at the same time.
Once baked, the apples become soft and just a little brown, melting into the warm cheese and creating a perfect silky bite with just the right amount of tang.
We dug in without holding back.
But the pièce de résistance was the mulled cider. I had it cooking on the stovetop when people started arriving, infusing the house with the scent of cinnamon and cloves. Pulled like magnets toward the spices, everyone walked straight to the kitchen, sniffing the air and inhaling deeply, nose above the pot and eyes closed in sensory pleasure.
I made three huge pots of it throughout the night. We kept taking breaks from the singing and music by the fire in the backyard to come back in and refill cups with the warming fall drink, relaxing more into the coziness of the evening with every sip.
And so, on this second Friday in October, we officially welcomed fall with steaming mugs of cider, friends, music, a bonfire, and belly laughs that ricocheted deep into the crisp night air.
Hot Mulled Cider, slightly adapted from Williams-Sonoma's Holiday Entertaining
This recipe makes 6 mugs full once you add the liquor. The original recipe calls for brandy, but we used rum and/or whiskey. My favorite is rum with a splash of whiskey - I don't usually like whiskey, but in this drink it gives it a nice little kick. I highly recommend it!
The recipe is also delicious with no alcohol, but it will make less.
4 cups (32 fl oz/1 L) apple cider
4 teaspoons honey or brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
8 cinnamon sticks
1/2 an apple, thinly sliced
rum, brandy, whiskey...your choice!
Select 6 mugs. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the cider, honey, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, and 2 of the cinnamon sticks. Bring to just below a simmer and reduce the heat to low. Cook for about 20 minutes.
Pour desired amount of liquor in a mug. (Start slow if you're not sure how much you like - you can always add more!) Divide the hot cider mixture evenly among the mugs, pouring it through a fine-mesh sieve. Garnish each serving with a cinnamon stick, a sprinkle of your favorite spice, and 1 or 2 apple slices. Serve at once!
Note: Since I wanted people to be able to come and get refills whenever they wanted, I doubled the recipe and, once it was ready, passed it through the sieve into another pot, which I kept on low heat so that it stayed hot. I left a laddle next to it and people were able to get refills throughout the night without having to deal with filtering the liquid.
Baked Goat Cheese with Honey and Apples, slightly adapted from Williams-Sonoma's Holiday Entertaining
1/2 lb (250g) log soft or semi-soft goat cheese
1 crisp apple (my favorite is Granny Smith)
3 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Gluten-free crackers for serving
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
Place the log of goat cheese on a baking sheet. Flatten it some with a spatula. Halve and core the apple and thinly slice it lengthwise. Put the apple slices in a bowl, add the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the honey, and turn the apples to coat. Drizzle the remaining two tablespoons honey over the cheese, and layer the apple slices on top.
Bake until the cheese is warm throughout and softened and the apples are tender, 8-10 minutes. Using a wide spatula, transfer the cheese to a platter. Serve warm with crackers!