Christmas Goodies: Mulled Cider
Every year I attend the candlelight tour of Rockingham, the Rocky Hill NJ house where George Washington bade farewell to his troops after the Revolutionary War ended. The docents are all in period costume. A woman in a mobcap plays the harpsichord near the front room. Upstairs you can actually touch the uniform worn by Washington's aide de camp. If you close your eyes, I swear you can hear the General's voice ringing out over the bucolic New Jersey countryside, peaceful now after years of bloody conflict.
The kitchen isn't part of the main house. It's a small building off to the side near the smokehouse. The rear wall is given over to the hearth. Guides in long dresses with white aprons neatly tied at the waist hand you mugs of hot cider and offer spicy cookies which are piled high on earthenware platters. Outside the air is crisp and December-cold, but inside the air is warm from the crackling fire and filled with the delicious smells of nutmeg and cinnamon and candle wax.
The following recipes are from the 18th century but have been adapted for today's kitchen.
1 gallon cider
2 sticks cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar (optional)
6 whole cloves
6 whole allspice
1 sliced lemon
The cloves, cinnamon, and allspice in a cheesecloth bag. Combine cider, sugar, and spice bag. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Discard cheesecloth spice bag and serve cider hot, floating lemon slices on surface. Serves 20.