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Harvest Iced Apple Cider for an Early Autumn Treat
The splashy ad campaigns of some restaurant chains and retailers are encouraging you to come 'n' get your iced apple cider in early autumn, before the inevitable later weather transition means their hot versions will be the only practical way to soothe your senses. Although the refreshing nature of chilled cider is often overlooked as a fall treat, there are lots of ways to make it even snazzier than the bare-bones varieties most shopkeepers serve.
— Jazz up your ice cubes. Make a puree from a foundation, like the peeled, cored and sliced ripe pear in the autumn-spiced ice cubes recipe below. Use seasonal spices and a natural sugar substitute, like Stevia, and freeze in an ice cube tray.
— Get creative with your cider. Think of it as a brew in which to whisk everything from flavor fests (such as peppermint extract or vanilla beans) to nutrient-packed antioxidants (chunks of exotic fall fruits for a Sangria-like effect or fresh herbs, liked chopped basil or rosemary).
— Substitute or combine other fall fruits with apples in homemade cider, like pears or quinces. Or even add a sweet vegetable, like juiced carrots and a dash of juiced fresh ginger, both of which complement apples beautifully.
— Have gourmet iced cider tastings, a la wine samplings, and pair the cold beverages with delicious seasonal treats. The Dunkin' Donuts chain, for instance, which sells both iced and hot cider, suggests it paired with a seasonal donut, like caramel apple flavor or its fall harvest, which has a creamy orange icing.
Eden Ice Cider (www.EdenIceCider.com) is a sweet dessert wine made in Vermont from a mixture of local apples in which the pressed juice is frozen outdoors before the most intensely flavored part is extracted, a la icewines, where the grapes freeze on the vine. The company has recruited a number of local chefs to create pairings, which would also go well with iced apple cider.
Pastry Chef Lara Atkins, from The Kitchen Table Bistro in Richmond, Vt., notes that a Granny Apple cake with toffee sauce and served with caramelized apples goes well. Best-selling cookbook author Bob Blumer presents the spicy cheese-filled walnut shells below.
Here are some of award-winning Eden Ice Cider's additional ideas: Vermont artisan cheeses (either before dinner or as a cheese course).
— Cabot "Clothbound Cheddar"
— Jasper Hill "Moses Sleeper" and "Caspian"
— Bonnieview "Moss End Blue"
— Springbrook "Tarantaise"
— VonTrapp "Oma"
— Apple cake with caramel sauce
— Bread puddings
— Apple pie with a slice of cheddar
— Maple creme brule
— Sticky toffee pudding
— Eden Ice Cider with a few butter cookies
— Foie gras
— Duck or pork terrine or pate
— Savory cheese tart
SPICY STUFFED WALNUTS
10 walnuts in the shell (nuts for eating; shells for serving only), see note
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 / 4 teaspoon salt
1 / 8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 tablespoons honey
Yields 6 servings of 2 pieces each.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Insert a paring knife into the small opening at the top of each walnut shell and twist it to split the shell in half.
Some may break into several pieces in the wrong places. This is an inexact science. Some walnuts are much more difficult to split evenly than others, hence, the spare shells. You will need just 12 cosmetically perfect walnut halves culled from these 10 whole walnuts for the final recipe. These are for serving only, not for eating.
Clean out the nut casings, reserve the shells and grind in a blender or food processor 1 / 8 of the nuts. Save the rest for another use. Reserve the empty shells.
In a small bowl, combine well the granulated sugar, salt, cayenne, ground walnuts and cheese, and set aside for no longer than the amount of time it takes to roast the walnut shells.
In a medium bowl, toss walnut halves with oil. Transfer nuts to a baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes, or until toasted. Let cool to room temperature.
To assemble: Set cooled walnut shells on a tray. Fill walnut halves with 1 teaspoon of cheese mixture. Transfer to serving tray, and drizzle with honey overtop just before serving. Discard nut shells after eating the filling.
Note: You will want to yield just 12 cosmetically perfect walnut halves from these 10 whole walnuts. Please see recipe instructions.
-Adapted from "Glutton for Pleasure" by Bob Blumer (Whitecap, $29.95).
AUTUMN-SPICED ICE CUBES
1 cup water
1 ripe pear (peeled, cored and sliced)
1 teaspoon total freshly ground cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
1 / 2 teaspoon Stevia or other sugar-free sweetener
Yields about 12 to 16 flavored ice cubes.
Combine water, pear, spices and Stevia in a blender until it's pureed; freeze in an ice cube tray. Use as the ice for iced apple cider (either store-bought or homemade).
CNS photo courtesy of "Glutton for Pleasure"
Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the author of seven food books, including "Mrs. Cubbison's Best Stuffing Cookbook" and "The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook." She also writes the Creators News Service "Cooks' Books" column. To find out more about Lisa Messinger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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