When in Rome…

Patric has been sick. It started with just a cold like the one everyone gets when Memphis weather gets fun, but then it turned into something worse. It’s never fun when you take your kid to the doctor and they say, “Wow. His ears look angry in there.”

I felt like a really bad person then for telling him to just keep taking Mucinex. I suck. But I am good at making him feel better.

When I was little (much much littler than Patric is now), my grandmother would make me a hot toddy if I got sick. Her version was lemon, honey, hot water, and a nice splash of Wild Turkey. Combine one of those with some cough syrup with codeine, and trust me, I felt better and I slept like a rock.

While I’m all for Patric learning that alcohol isn’t really a big deal at home instead of the hard way at college parties, I know that alcohol, even in toddy form, and medicines don’t mix. My grandmother was a rebel, never mind that to her dying day she swore she never drank alcohol because that would be wrong even if there was always a not-so-small bottle of Wild Turkey and a nice red wine under her sink. Those don’t count; they’re medicinal.

So, what is Patric’s sick-time beverage of choice? He’s always enjoyed a cup of hot tea with cream and honey. He’s been known to drink hot cocoa with marshmallows and a splash of coffee (in other words, not enough coffee to taste). But his all-time favorite go-to drink is hot apple cider.

It’s the time of year now for me when I don’t mind keeping a pot of the stuff going on the stove with cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and a tiny piece of crystallized ginger almost constantly. Now I have an excuse. While Patric is actually perfectly happy to just have a cup of juice from the fridge to the microwave, I like making it a little more special. And of course, if he’s having some, I have to “share” it with him. After all, it’s medicinal.

Sick of Cold Weather Spiced Cider

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 servings (or just 1 if you are really \"sick\")

Unfiltered juice just seems to have more flavor to me, but regular apple juice works fine. I would recommend that you use a juice with no sugar added. The pink peppercorns aren't a real necessity; I just like the tiny hint of heat they give it.

You can do so much with this one. Make it with a splash of cranberry juice for pretty color and a touch of tartness. Add some vanilla extract to the juice or, if you don't mind using it, a previously-scraped vanilla pod in the spices gives it the most heavenly aroma in the whole world. If you want it sweeter, add sugar while it's hot, stirring well to dissolve. If you want to make it heartier, mix it with half-and-half. My grandmother would tell you to put in a nob of butter and a generous splash of medicinal brandy.

If you made some and didn't drink it all, it refrigerates and reheats well, although you should remove the spices before storing. One of my favorite things to do with leftovers, though, is to turn them into almost an apple caramel. Remove the spices and stir constantly as it reduces over medium heat. Add butter as it's reducing to make a mellower sauce. Serve it over pound cake, ice cream, pancakes, or just your finger. Oh, and brandy is a nice addition here, too.

Ingredients

  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 4 cloves
  • 4 whole allspice berries
  • 2 pink peppercorns
  • 1 small piece crystallized ginger
  • 1 generous pinch of minced orange peel
  • 1 quart apple cider or juice, unfiltered if possible

Instructions

  1. Gather the spices in a tea ball or place them in the pan.
  2. Add the apple cider to the pan and heat over medium until steaming. Allow the spices to steep in the hot cider for 30 minutes.
  3. If the spices were not in a tea ball, strain the cider before serving.
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