Halloween is the last big social event before everyone on my street holes up in their houses until spring and the warm weather has us peek our noses outside and brings us into our yards again. Unless someone hosts a New Year's Eve or Super Bowl party, winter keeps us primarily to ourselves.
The first Halloween we were in this house, it poured down rain. I'm talkin' the dark, no-moon-to-light-the-way, cold monsoon kind of rain. The dogs always go bonkers when they hear a knock on the door, so we put them in the basement until the excitement was over. It still verged on mayhem when someone knocked or the rang the doorbell, as the dogs barked each time with renewed energy downstairs.
The second year brought much nicer weather, and I had a lightbulb moment with the idea to set up a table at the curb. We joined forces with our neighbors across the street and served hot cider along with the candy. It has worked so well that we just spent our fourth year manning the candy and cider table. Each year I've tried to perfect the cider. Last year, I made this recipe and dubbed it a Keeper. It's howling good!
Hot Mulled Cider for a Crowd
3 gallons unsweetened apple cider
3-5 large oranges, sliced
6" piece of ginger root, sliced
6 cinnamon sticks
50 or more whole cloves
2 teaspoons of fresh grated nutmeg
**optional** 1- 2 cups of rum, calvados, or apple jack
Pour all the cider into a very large pot and set on low-medium heat.
Mine is a 16-quart pot. A doozy, I know, but it has been worth every penny of the deep, deep discount price I paid at the All-Clad Seconds sale a few years ago. I use this pot year round for recipes like this cider, soups, pasta sauce, and boiling water for corn-on-the-cob or a large batch of mashed potatoes. I don't know why I didn't make this investment years ago.
Love. This. Pot.
Slice the oranges and ginger.
Add the remaining ingredients to the cider. Continue to let this simmer on low-medium heat for 2-4 hours to allow the flavors to mellow, reducing the heat to low after 1 1/2 hours.
Stir in the rum, calvados, or applejack to make a grown-up version; otherwise, leave it family-friendly. The family version is a fantastic fall drink that helps take the chill off a brisk fall evening outside. From a purely culinary standpoint, however, even just a small amount of rum gives the cider a smoother and deeper flavor.
Strain before serving. We strain the cider as we transfer it to the crock pot and run an extension cord to keep it hot for the outdoor festivities.
We make the family version, serve it in disposable cups, and give the adults the option to upgrade with a small shot of rum.
Inside, I prefer to drink from a mug. Always a hit!
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