Get this. The mulled cider I made in my slow cooker for our big family Christmas dinner has amazing staying power. And to think that, in a fit of exhaustion, I just about poured it down the drain as we were cleaning up after the meal, and all kinds of kids and cousins were strolling through the kitchen.
I almost always overshoot quantity-wise when I cook for a group. First, I think it’s close to a crime to run out of food—or to have your guests worry that the food won’t reach as they survey the quantity while serving themselves. Sure, most of us should eat less, but the time to make that point is not at a celebration or holiday meal.
Second, I don’t hate leftovers. Nor does Merle. In fact, leftovers are part of my weekly cooking scheme. Cook once; eat twice. But eat four, five, or six times? That’s the way to kill a dish.
But back to the cider. Our meal for 52 was over, and we were in the kitchen doing clean-up—when I spotted a brim-full slow cooker on the counter with its Vanilla Hot Mulled Cider still burbling away. It hadn’t been touched!
It was the third slow cooker I had filled with this vanilla-tinged cider (in my opinion, vanilla is the ingredient that elevates this drink above many mulled cider recipes). The other two cookers had been eagerly emptied. But what was I going to do now with five quarts of this zipped-up drink? I hadn’t thought to bring bottles along to fill with cider leftovers to send home with our guests.
I turned the cooker off, fished the cinnamon sticks and cloves out of the blazing hot liquid, and was just about to pour the offending drink away. I mean, why couldn’t it have announced itself so I could have offered another round of cider mid-afternoon?
I gave the amber-colored mixture a stir and poured myself a half-glass. It tasted bright, orange, vibrant! And I had put it on eight hours earlier. There was nothing wrong with this drink beside the fact that I had made too much.
Then I remembered that we had two more big Christmas meals coming up. I would pour the cider back into its original containers and give them a spot in our home fridge. Of course, I’d check on the cider before carting it along to the next holiday dinner.
My test drink a few days later proved to be as beguilingly good as the first swig I had taken of the cider on the day I mixed it. Off it went to the next big family meal—where it got a happy response.
Last night I swirled the bottle with the remaining few cups of the drink still in it before pouring myself a glass-full. I drank it cold this time—and it was still powerfully sweet and clean. Never mind that I had made it 12 days earlier. No hint of a sting. Just a lovely, deep-into-winter pick-me-up that almost didn’t get a chance to finish its job.
Vanilla Hot Mulled Cider
Makes: 12 Servings
Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Cooking Time: 5 Hours
Ideal Slow Cooker Size: 3 ½-Quart
2 quarts apple cider
¼ – ½ cup brown sugar, according to your taste preference
½ tsp. vanilla
1 cinnamon stick
1. Combine ingredients in slow cooker.
2. Cover. Cook on Low 5 hours. Stir.
*The Vanilla Hot Mulled Cider Recipe is found in the Fix-It and Forget-It Big Cookbook on page 645.
*The mug and saucer in the photo above are available from The Village Pottery, here in the village of Intercourse.