Saturday, November 15, 2014

Heart Warming Seasonal Drinks

This article was published in Coeur d'Alene Press in a column written by SeAnne Safaii

As the seasons begin to change, and frost covers the leaves of the pumpkin patch, nature signals it is time for preparation. Autumn is the time to harvest what we have available and prepare for the cold months ahead. 

It is a time to bring the family together to visit apple orchards, ride tractors, and bake pie. It is a time to wear our sweaters and seek the warming company of our friends and family. As we come together and share hugs and homemade desserts, we can feel added comfort with a warm mug steaming with the aromas of the season.

Mulled cider and other hot drinks have been an American tradition since colonial times. As they traveled to the new world, settlers preferred to drink hard cider when clean water was not available. Apples were one of the earliest crops in the colonies, and by the 18th century, cider had become a staple on every family table. 

Originating in England, wassailing was a traditional ceremony that involved singing and dancing in hopes of ensuring healthy trees and a fruitful harvest. Wassail, the traditional drink of the event, is a hot mulled cider flavored with cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. 
Mulling refers to the process of heating juice or wine along with spices including cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg. Wine and hard cider can be mulled to preserve the alcohol, or can be boiled to create an alcohol-free drink.

Mulling can also have health benefits. The spices added during mulling have high levels of antioxidants and other nutrients that protect against some of the negative effects of high blood sugar.1 Spices also help support our immune system, stimulate our digestive tract, and provide anti-inflammatory action. Adding spices to other juices and foods can have similar health-promoting effects.

Other variations of hot drinks include mulled cranberry juice, spiced hot chocolate, hot alcoholic toddy, and Chai tea.

Below is an easy recipe to help get started mulling cider. Be creative by adding other favorite spices and enjoy with loved ones.

4 pints apple cider
3 cinnamon sticks
3 whole allspice berries
2 whole cloves
1 orange, thinly sliced (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a pot and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Serve hot.

1. Dearlove, R. P., Greenspan, P., Hartle, D. K., Swanson, R. B. & Hargrove, J. L. Inhibition of protein glycation by extracts of culinary herbs and spices. J. Med. Food 11, 275–281 (2008).

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