Side Dish: Happy Thanksgiving! (November 23, 2009)

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This week has been particularly cold for LA. I imagine that this is what autumn in New England feels like: the approaching cold, coming indoors rosy-cheeked after a pickup football game, raking colored leaves into piles and drinking hot mulled apple cider.

“I can see my breath,” Kevin demonstrated with characteristic gruff as we left the house this morning to head over to his mother Nora’s house. So much for global warming. When we got to Nora’s, Kevin was still complaining about the cold and so I got an idea. One quick look at Nora’s pantry assured me that she would not miss a few ingredients (and we all know how expensive nutmeg is!), so while everyone was in the other room undoubtedly spilling secrets they had promised to keep, I slipped into the kitchen and raided Nora’s pantry.

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I filled the crockpot with about a gallon of apple cider and stirred in 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Then I stuck about 20-25 whole cloves into the skin of 1/2 an apple cut into wedges and 1 whole orange.

To the apple and orange, I added 2 whole nutmegs, 3 cinnamon sticks, 4 pieces of crystallized ginger wrapped it all in cheesecloth and dropped it into the crock pot, topping it off with the rest of the gallon of cider.You can use other spices too star anise, lemon zest or allspice berries, for example but make sure you use whole spices; ground spices will leave the cider gritty and cloudy. Let this simmer for a few hours, enjoying the autumnal aromas as they fill your house.

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Next, pour a healthy mug two-thirds full, top off with Brandy and enjoy with someone who needs a little warming up.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Scotty.