Photo by Judith Hausman
If I am warming up from a chilly walk through New York’s streets, inaugurating the wood burning season or congratulating myself on putting away the deck furniture, warmed, spiced cider or wine hits the spot. Somehow the smell of warm cinnamon and cloves on the stove matches the season.
Hot ‘Toddied’ Apples
- 1 ounce Tuthilltown Corn Whiskey
- 1 ounce American Fruits Apple Liqueur
- 3 ounces hot cider
- 1 ounce half and half
- 4 apple slices
- brown sugar to coat
Coat apple slices in brown sugar; heat in oven at low heat until sugar glazes to crisp.
Add warmed half and half to mug; mix whiskey and apple liqueur into hot cider, then slowly pour into warmed mugs. Garnish with sugar-dusted apples.
There are many apple growers that still press their own cider in the Hudson Valley, and a few still survive in the ‘burbs as well. City dwellers get cider delivered more or less to their street corners through the farmers’ market but I head for Salinger’s in nearby Brewster, N.Y., trying hard to skip the doughnuts they make.
I buy a gallon of cider and another half gallon to freeze for later—fresh cider turns quickly. (Commercial cider is now required by federal regulation to be pasteurized and while direct sale such as Salinger’s is permitted not to be, many farms do so anyway now. Concerns about E.coli and salmonella began this trend.)
Then I pour the cider into a heavy pan and add cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, fresh-grated nutmeg and whole allspice. A star anise, lemon or orange peel, a chunk of ginger, or the last sage leaves from your deck pots are nice additions, too. That’s the simplest formula. When it’s hot but not boiled, I ladle the cider into mugs (strain out or just avoid ladling the whole spices) and offer it with, oh, anything—pumpkin bread? Lavender shortbread or oatmeal raisin cookies? Or welcome guests to ladle it out themselves—it’ll stay warm better that way.
Now, if I want to spike the cider, my choice is dark rum. Or I can mull some red wine instead. The same spices and a 1.5-liter bottle of inexpensive cabernet make a luscious opener for a cold-weather dinner. My preference is not to add sugar, but some brown sugar can be added and the wine warmed and stirred until dissolved. You can even buy already-mixed spices for mulling wine or cider.
Gluhwein, the warm, spiced wine typically served at German Christmas markets, usually contains brandy or cognac. With orange, cardamom, and port and/or brandy added (sometimes raisins and nuts too), it’s glogg, a Scandinavian version that keeps spirits bright during lengthening Scandinavian nights.
Edging over to the hot toddy, Swiss skiers fortify with a combination of sweet, hot tea and red wine. Technically, the term “hot toddy,” which probably originated in Scotland, is a basic recipe that combines spirits (whisky, rum, brandy), hot liquid (tea, water, cider), sweetening (honey, sugar, molasses) and sometimes spices, citrus and a small quantity of butter.
English-style hard cider has had a renaissance in the Northeast, too. Effervescent Doc’s Draft Hard Apple Cider from Warwick Valley Winery, right here in the Hudson Valley, and Woodchuck Hard Cider from Middlebury, Vt., are delicious and not overly sweet.
Peter Kelly, our local restaurateur (X20 Xaviars) and Bravo Top Chef, uses Warwick Valley’s apple liqueur and Tuthilltown Distillery’s (Gardiner, N.Y.) moonshine, made from Hudson Valley-grown corn, to make a knock-your-socks-off creamy hot cider (see recipe above).
As a long-time freelance food writer, Judith Hausman has written about every aspect of food, but local producers and artisanal traditions remain closest to her heart. Eating close to home takes this seasonal eater through a journey of delights and dilemmas, one tiny deck garden, farmers’ market discovery and easy-as-pie recipe at a time. She writes from a still-bucolic but ever-more-suburban town in the New York City ‘burbs.