Wednesday, October 23, 2013

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Hot Cider, Fortified with Spiced Butter and Rum

When the sun bears down on Southern California, hot buttered drinks are alien, repulsive things. San Diegans in particular subsist on the simple pleasures of good beer and strong margaritas. Let the fog roll in or a chill come on, though, and our booze equilibrium shifts. We may not get snowdrifts or nor’easters here, but on windswept nights when fat drops of rain spank the windows and tree tips slap wetly against the house, hot rum is a certain prophylactic against the cold.

Good size pats for hot rum
Some folks make a simple, almost Puritanical, hot buttered rum: a tot of rum, topped with hot water, and garnished with a little pat of butter. I suppose that does keep the cold at bay, but its comfort is brutal and perfunctory. I like something more luxe, something actually pleasant to drink, something that makes me look at the bottom of an emptied mug and think 'Maybe one more...' Adding a stick of cinnamon helps, but it still wants a bit more character. Nothing fancy, just…a bit more. For that something extra, I swap out water with spiced cider and flavor the butter with that old British baking standby, mixed spice.

Mixed spice is similar to American pumpkin pie spice, but with coriander, mace, and cloves. We know all these notes; they're just arranged here differently. Mash a bit of it into unsalted butter with brown sugar and there's a spiced butter that is a nice touch on pancakes, waffles, English muffins — even bread and butter pudding. But let's not forget why we're here. We're doctoring rum with it. So let's get on with it.
Mixed Spice
1 tablespoon each — allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg (all ground)
2 teaspoons — mace (ground)
1 teaspoon each — cloves, coriander, and ginger (all ground)
Blend together and store in an airtight container. 
This will make more than you need for the butter. Tuck it into the cabinet and break it out for apple pies, puddings, gingerbread, braised pork, pumpkin stews, etc.

Ready to roll
For the spiced butter, it's almost ridiculous to think of what I do as a recipe. It's more of a guideline; weigh some quantity of butter, add half as much brown sugar, and mash in enough mixed spice with a fork or the back of a spoon to give it the intensity of flavor I like. For those who insist on proportions, try this:
Mixed Spice Butter 
100 g unsalted butter
50g soft brown sugar
1 tsp mixed spice (above) 
Mash into a paste either by hand or in a mixer. Roll into a 5" log on parchment paper. Twist the ends in opposite directions, and store in the refrigerator. 
]Now, then. The drink.

Hot Cider with Rum and Spiced Butter

1 quart unfiltered apple cider (non-alcoholic, but hey, use the hard stuff if you prefer, drunkie)
3 allspice berries, cracked (or a half-ounce of allspice dram)
2 4" cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
2 cloves
3-4 1" wide swathes of orange peel
2 oz rum (Appleton 12 year, Barbancourt 8 year, or Rhum JM are nice)
1 pencil-thick disc of mixed spice butter (above)

Heat the apple cider, spices, and orange peel in a 2-quart pan and simmer gently15 minutes or so. Meanwhile, pour the rum into heat-proof glasses or ceramic mugs. Top off with hot spiced cider and slip a disc of mixed spice butter into each mug.

Repeat until the cider is gone. Then go get more cider.

Goes well with:

  • Know what else is good in cold weather? A big ol' mug of masala chai or hot chocolate spiked with Chartreuse. Still don't want butter in your hot booze drinks? May I suggest a negus?
  • Half-slab pumpkin, an on-the-fly roast of pumpkin slices, seasoned with a mix I usually use on pork ribs.  Serve it — or not — with a side of homemade German noodles
  • The mixed spice, tossed with sugar, would make a good dusting for pumpkin and ginger doughnuts
  • "We’ve known each other nearly twenty years; I know what the boy likes to put in his mouth. The look of surprise that leapt to his face at the first sip was pretty much what I expected." Someone tries the champurrado for the first time.  
  • Halloween is coming. Why not try a Skellington Bowl with brandy, rum, and boiled cider?
  • Erick Castro's Cinnamon Wind tiki cocktail with Appleton rum and Becherovka. 

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