On Saturday my son attended a birthday party at a lovely organic farm, and while he climbed onto the hay wagon for a ride through the woods, I stepped into the farm store, window shopping through the aisles of produce and gourmet foods, artful clothes made from recycled woolens (it’s not just me: it’s a fad, a good fad). Cynthia, the store manager, unpacked gallon jugs of cider from a case.
“Cider! I was just looking for cider! My husband is buying some at the grocery, but I need the good stuff, the direct from the apples stuff.”
“Unfortunately, you can’t buy it,” Cynthia shrugged. “It’s for the members who purchased a farm share, which is the only way we can distribute it. It’s unpasteurized, so it’s illegal to sell.”
“But unpasteurized is the kind I want!”
“Would you like to help me with something in the back?” she asked. I nodded and followed her. “I still have some left from last week. If you’d like to offer me a gift of five dollars, I could offer you a gift of unpasteurized cider, which would be illegal for me to sell.”
I looked her in the eye to see if I had it right.“Hey, Cynthia! I’m feeling compelled to outright give you a five dollar gift!”
“You know, I was just thinking I’d like to give you a gallon of cider. How ‘bout that? Thank you for not purchasing.”
And here it is, next to the grocery store cider, in my frig. Madeleine tells me she likes “the grown-up one” better, after I tried to get her to drink the store-bought one.
So I’m heating up the storebought cider, which already tastes a little cooked. I can disguise the flavor of pasteurization, easily.
My secrets for spiced cider:
Heat a pot of cider to steaming—but keep a small pitcher or measuring cup of cold cider, to cool a too-hot drink. While it heats on the stove, add a pinch of allspice, two cloves or a pinch of powdered clove, a generous dash of cinnamon and a dollop of vanilla. A dollop of maple syrup is nice, but not necessary, and if you have no real maple syrup, a spoonful of brown sugar is sometimes enough to entice young drinkers.
While the children ran over to say hi to a neighbor, and while the cider heated, I quickly set up their small potholder looms with a shiny pretty yarn as a warp, and cut lengths of a lovely thick and thin wool in muted shades of purple. I started to knit something from the thick and thin wool last week when I realized the texture of this yarn is just miserable, damaged. I have other skeins of soft thick-and-thin wool that are not a chore to knit. Still, the purple is too pretty to waste, but it needs a project that isn’t to be worn near the skin. Potholders? Or dollhouse rugs. Or pieces for bigger projects, if this weaving thing catches on.
For an additional snack, I sliced a stale bagel into tiny rounds, buttered them and placed them on a cookie sheet at 425 degrees, and when the slices began to brown, I added cinnamon and sugar and served, with the cider.
And for the moment, with warm snacks and cool projects that demand concentration, I am one popular mom. A hundred unfinished projects dot the landscape, but I’m paying attention to this one, right now, the kid project, the best project.