Hot Drinks for Cold Nights

Hot Drinks Cold Nights 26

We’re entering that long, dark stretch of winter here in Eastern Canada where we just want it to END but we know there’s at least another three months of it waiting for us.  So we come up with ways to keep ourselves from getting suicidal.  In Ottawa we have our Winterlude festival, in which we pretend that we actually LOVE winter for the benefit of the tourists.  And after we’ve spent all day freezing our toes off while traversing the world’s longest skating rink, we appreciate a hot beverage or two to help us thaw out.  So here are two ideas for you.

Hot Drinks Cold Nights 14

HOT DR. PEPPER

Hot Drinks Cold Nights 18

Don’t freak out — this isn’t one of those newfangled sugar drinks that “kids these days” are coming up with to get themselves all wired up.  The recipe for this odd potation comes from the 1960s, when the makers of Dr. Pepper came up with it as a way to keep their sales strong in the winter months when a cold soda pop wasn’t as appealing.  I’m not even kidding.

Hot Drinks Cold Nights 19

So first you want to slice up a lemon.  Really thin.  You’ll need one slice for every serving.  Stick a slice in the bottom of a heatproof mug.

Hot Drinks Cold Nights 3

I used Navy tankards, complete with glass bottoms to prevent someone from slipping you the King’s shilling.

Hot Drinks Cold Nights 23

Then take your Dr. Pepper (if you can get it in your country), and pour it into a saucepan.  I used 3 355mL/12oz cans of the stuff because Trav was over and we were all curious.

Hot Drinks Cold Nights 20

Heat it to precisely 180°F.  I’m not sure why, but I think it has something to do with the stuff losing its carbonation.  It’ll fizz as the carbon dioxide escapes, so that will keep you entertained.

Hot Drinks Cold Nights 21

Pour your hot Dr. Pepper over the lemon slice and add a shot of rum if you want to turn it into the adult version of the beverage (I personally think that it’s a little too sweet without the rum).  Enjoy!

Hot Drinks Cold Nights 25

HOT APPLE CIDER

Hot Drinks Cold Nights 2

While I’m not a fan of apple juice, I will always go for a refill of apple cider.  And not just in the fall — any time of year. Obviously there are a million ways to make hot spiced apple cider, but this one is what I felt like making today.

Hot Drinks Cold Nights 5

In a medium sized saucepan, plop in 4 thin slices of lemon, 2 cinnamon sticks, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 2 tablespoons brown sugar (you could also use maple syrup, or leave out the sugar altogether).

Hot Drinks Cold Nights 7

Pour in 4 cups fresh unsweetened apple cider and 1 tablespoon vanilla.

Hot Drinks Cold Nights 9

Whisking occasionally, bring that to a boil and let it foam up for a minute or two before removing from the heat and serving.

Hot Drinks Cold Nights 11

Garnish it with a slice of apple and your cinnamon sticks.  This amount serves two generously with room for a small refill, or four if you’re not as greedy as I am.

Hot Drinks Cold Nights 10

If you’d like to make a grown-up version of this with alcohol, a nice dark rum, bourbon, brandy, or cognac would work well.  I’ll leave it to you to decide how much will work for you to keep away the chill.

Hot Drinks Cold Nights 12

Advertisements

Vanilla at Home

I use vanilla extract in absolutely everything.  So I go through it like gangbusters.  And pure vanilla extract is the only way to go.

I also like orchids, and that’s where vanilla beans come from.  I kid you not.  A climbing orchid native to Central America, called Vanilla V. planifolia (or V. fragrans) is the source of that costly little brown bean. This is not a vanilla-producing orchid but it’s pretty enough anyway.

And the reason vanilla tastes so good in sweet things?  Well, the vanilla bean makes its own sugars:

Vanilla’s rich flavor is the creation of three factors: the pod’s wealth of phenolic defensive compounds, preeminently vanillin; a good supply of sugars and amino acids to generate browning-reaction flavors; and the curing process.  The plant stores most of its defensive aromatics in inert form by bonding them to a sugar molecule.  The active defenses — and aromas — are released when damage to the pod brings the storage forms into contact with bond-breaking enzymes.  The key to making good vanilla is thus deliberate damage to the pods, followed by a prolonged drying process that develops and concentrates the flavor, and prevents the pod from spoiling.

That’s an excerpt from On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee.  Doodle gave it to me for Christmas.  I highly recommend it if you are interesting in knowing why things work the way they do in the kitchen.  It’s a great blogging tool, as well.

Did you know you can make your own vanilla extract?  It’s super easy.  I already have some steeping that I put up in October in preparation for Chel and Invis‘ wedding cake in June, but I got this cute little bottle from my brother Ando for Christmas.  In it were two vanilla beans and all the tag said was “For Al: BLOG IT.”

So this is what I am doing.  I love presents for the blog!

Basically, all you need to do is fill your bottle (make sure it has a good seal) with two vanilla beans and some booze.  The instructions here call for vodka, but I have read elsewhere that rum makes a more mellow flavour that lends itself better to darker sweets.  You can use bourbon as well, especially if you have bourbon vanilla beans from Madagascar.

Then you seal it and store it away for about 4-6 months.

TADA.

That was so easy it was almost a non-DIY.  That’s why I had to give you some science.  I had to make you feel like you worked for it.