Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hey, remember me?

It has not escaped my attention that I have not posted since May. Nor has it escaped my attention that I was in the middle of a 52 week challenge that I abandoned outright. I also seem to recall vowing never to let another blog fall victim to my forgetfulness, busyness and general laziness when it comes to my hobbies. And yet here I am, in October, over 4 months later, returning to you, dear reader.

In my absence I have not abandoned cooking. On the contrary, I met a rather wonderful man who shares my undying love and dedication to food. The two of us have concocted many wonderful meals that we pat ourselves on the back for. I have often thought about how I should blog about those meals, and I have actually photographed many of them with that purpose in mind, but somehow life, laziness, and World of Warcraft always seems to get in the way. Well no more! I vow (again) to make an effort to be more dedicated. I will not, however, take up any more 52 week challenges, that force my creativity in a direction it is not always inclined. Blogging had become a chore, and it should not be that way. It should be a celebration of delicious. An adventure into new and exciting realms of taste. An exploration of world cuisine, tradition, and comfort.

I am a stubborn person, however, and therefore I intend to complete the 52 week challenge. I will make 52 salads. They simply won't be made in 52 consecutive weeks.

But this is not why I come to you today. I come to you with tidings of fall delights and easy-peasy awesomeness that will fill your belly with the joy and love that only the fall harvest can bestow. I am speaking, of course, of that most American of fruits - the apple. True, the apple is not native to North America, though neither are most of us. In this context, the apple is very much like we are. It didn't come from here, but it's adaptability allowed it to survive and thrive in our climate, our landscape, so much so that the apples we grow today bear little resemblance to its ancestors in Western Asia. They are Canadian. They are American. The apples of North America have a rich and interesting history that I cannot do justice to. For an engaging and eye-opening read, I strongly recommend "The Botany of Desire" by Michael Pollan (and no, the irony of the author's name has not escaped me).

Factoid: Apple trees in orchards are all clones! The seeds from an apple are so genetically diverse that they will never produce the same tree twice, so to grow a new apple tree that produces the same variety of apple it must be grafted.

Rick and I were on our way back to Kingston one sunny September afternoon. I occasionally like to heed the signs on the side of the road that would direct me to some local gem, seeking out an adventure, discovering what the side roads have in store for me. On this day I decided I would stop at that orchard that I had driven by several times on the drive between the Arnprior and Kingston. Perched high atop Rick's shoulders, I collected some of the most delectable and tempting of apples. The picking was so good and so easy, that I filled my reusable shopping bag. A shockingly small cost later, I had arrived home with an entire crisper drawer full of apples. What on earth would I do with all those apples? After all, I usually only like apples raw, I've never been crazy about apple pie or apple crisp.

One of the things I always have liked is hot apple cider. Sweet, a little tart, with the hint of cinnamon, hot apple cider is just the thing when you come in from a day of dreary fall rain. How hard could it be? As it turns out, not hard at all! I searched the internet for a short while and came across this recipe. It was so easy, and so perfect. I only wished I had a bigger pot, I would have made more! It's all kinds of easy, more kinds of delicious, though it does take some forethought and time. I made it while doing some homework. It filled the house with the sweet smell of apples, and when I was done my homework, this warm brew was my reward.

Absurdly Easy Hot Apple Cider

8-10 apples
1/2 cup sugar (optional)
4 tbsp each cinnamon and allspice (I don't think I used this much of each)
large pot (I had a 4.5 liter pot)
cheesecloth & string

Cut the apples in quarters. Don't bother coring or peeling. Place spices in some doubled up cheesecloth and bundle it up. Put apples, sugar and spices in a large pot and fill with water. Boil for about an hour, then reduce to low and simmer for another 2 hours.
Take off heat, pull out spice bundle, and mash the apples. Pour through a strainer lined with cheesecloth into a large bowl. Let it sit there and drip for a good long while. After it has dripped and cooled for a while, gather up the edges of the cheese cloth and give it a squeeze to get out any additional juice.

Voila! You've got yourself some fantastic apple cider! I added the 1/2 cup of sugar but I don't think it would need it. The apples were sweet enough, and if anyone disagrees, they can add a teaspoon or two to their own glass of cider.

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