Given the fact that Michigan’s apple crop harvests are down nearly 90 percent this year, it may seem silly to focus on apple cider this month. It might be a bit more expensive right now, but I’m gonna buy it anyway. After all, it is tradition — an emotional connection with the season and part of the rhythm of life around here. I love to take trips with my wife and children to a local cider mill or farm stand and see the joy on their faces. The smell of spiced cider and doughnuts permeating the crisp fall air, and the excitement of watching fresh apples being pressed is captivating.
What better way to showcase one of my favorite seasonal treats than to make a delightful drink? This is perfect for those large holiday gatherings and will also prove useful in warming you inside and out all winter long. Rather than using traditional mulling spices, I have chosen to go with Chinese 5 Spice. This is a blend of clove, cinnamon, star anise, fennel, and Sichuan pepper (which is actually in the citrus family and does not resemble black pepper). These spices are not necessarily in equal parts, so it is recommended you buy a ready-made blend. And of course you have to go out and source fresh local cider.
HOT 5 SPICE CIDER PUNCH:
• 1 Gallon Fresh Apple Cider
• 750 ml (about 25 oz.) Appleton Estate V/X or better Jamaican Rum
• 375 ml Bols Dry Orange Curacao (or Gran Marnier type orange liqueur)
• 25 oz. Water
• 6.5 oz. Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
• 1/2 cup Demerara or Brown Sugar
• 1-3 Tsp. 5 Spice Powder (depending on personal taste)
• 1/4 Tsp. Dried Ginger
• 1 Orange (thinly sliced)
• 1 Apple (halved then thinly sliced)
• 1/2 stick unsalted butter (optional; if you are planning on having leftovers, this punch can be enjoyed on ice as well)
Combine all ingredients (except for liquor) in large pot or crockpot and heat without boiling for 20-30 minutes.
Just before you are ready to serve add alcohol (otherwise you risk boiling it off) Ladle into your favorite glasses and don’t forget to smile!!
Makes about 25 eight oz. servings.