It's cooking season, I call it because that's what happens in the fall. I look at the changing colors of the leaves, smell the crisp air, pull on a pair of socks and feel the sudden urge to cook. All day. I was buying groceries over the weekend, and the glorious smell of apples wafted through the produce section, and I knew I had to cook.
Fortunately, I have the November issue of Bon Appetit, so I'm set. I'm working through it to create dinners this week and to choose recipes for Thanksgiving. We usually spend the holiday in Illinois with the in-laws, but this year we'll be staying home with our girls and No. 1's boyfriend, a Canadian with no place to go for the American day off from work. He's a professor at Ohio State, which shuts down for a few days so everyone can go home and gorge themselves on sweet potatoes and pie. So, he'll be joining us for my favorite cranberry chutney, sweet potato pudding with pecan and gingersnap topping, green beans with toasted walnuts and dried-cherry vinaigrette and a roasted turkey of some sort—possibly butterflied with a fennel, sausage and ricotta stuffing.
Back to the produce section at the store, though, I didn't buy apples this weekend, but I did buy apple cider. I'm not a huge fan of apple cider, but grabbing the handle of the plastic jug and setting it in the cart seemed an uncontrollable action. An ancient food gatherer took over my body and forced me to act on the need to stock provisions for the tribe waiting back at the long house.
Well, at the moment, my long house is home to a tribe of two, so I need to have things to do with the cider besides mulling it or swigging it directly from the jug while standing in front of the open fridge and hoping something amazing will appear. Here's what I found for the cider:
Apple Cider Cocktail
1/2 c. cider
1/4 c. apple brandy
1/4 c. brandy
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
2 t. maple syrup
Shake all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and serve with a garnish of apple slices doused with lemon juice so they don't oxidize.
Sounds interesting, doesn't it? Only the liquor store didn't have apple brandy. They did have ginger brandy, though, and I imagined the combination would work. It doesn't. Trust me. Do not use ginger brandy in this cocktail, at least not at the same great ratio as you would the apple brandy. I found it nearly undrinkable and made another batch with triple sec instead. That was better, but it was still sort of odd. So, I made another batch, this time skipping the maple syrup, and the combination of cider, brandy, orange and lemon was just right.
Neuroscientists suspect we behave in certain ways based on ancient memories embedded in our brains. It's an interesting notion to explore, and although I doubt my ancient gatherer muse had a shaker with ice, I believe she had the same drive to make and serve food. So, with her in mind, and with various concoctions containing apple cider, I'm going to spend November in the kitchen.