Recipe #2 for the cooking-in-China file is Cider.
This was actually my first “foreign food invention” – I figured out how to make cider my first fall here, and took two large thermoses full of it to the Halloween showing of “Signs” that I put on for my students. A lot of the girls didn’t like the movie because it was too scary, but the cider all got drunk up! Of course, given that over 100 students showed up, that was bound to happen whether they liked it or not, but I like to think it was because it was so delicious. 😉
Since then I’ve made it for a Christmas party my second year, Thanksgiving dinner my third year, and various occasions in between, the most recent being the monthly fellowship this November (my fourth year). It always gets rave reviews from the drinkers, so I wanted to put the recipe together online for friends anywhere in the world who have the resources and interest to make it.
Pour 100% apple juice into a large pot and place over low heat. Plan about 1 liter for every 4 people, and maybe a bit more; never make less than 1 liter, even if you’re alone – you can always enjoy the leftovers! Then add the following items, all of which can be found loose in bins and bought by weight in the local supermarket:
2 cinnamon sticks, or several shakes of ground cinnamon
1 or 2 nutmegs, slightly bruised/crushed by a nut-cracker to release some of their oil; or 1/2 of a nutmeg, grated
10-20 cloves, pushed into a small orange (you may also wish to peel back some of the orange’s skin to let out a little more of its juice. DON’T add actual orange juice, though, it’s just not the same).
several slices of apple, complete with the skin
3 slices candied ginger
If desired, sprinkle in more of the spices, ground; and/or a couple shakes of allspice or apple pie spice.
Let the cider simmer for at least 20-30 minutes. The longer it simmers, the better the flavor, but once you take a taste, it’ll disappear pretty quickly! Don’t drink any of the pieces you put in it; if you’re very picky, you can even scoop them out before serving, but a little careful ladling is really all that’s needed.
If you happen to like making applesauce, put in some extra apple juice when you’re cooking the apples, then ladle it out after you season them but before you crush them into sauce. Adding that to plain apple juice, with or without the other cider ingredients above, makes it into wonderful cider – the fresh apple taste can’t be matched!