Winter Treats!

By: Shelley Shafran

This week in Israel is one of rains of blessing. The temperature has dropped and the Mashiv HaRu’ach has the winds howling and the rain falling. And how to remember these droves of rain, sleet and hail are a blessing when you emerge from the wind-swept day, shivering to your core? Crockpot cider, of course!

I love my slow cooker. I have two and if you can believe it I’ll often have both of them going. One will have a batch of frozen veggie scraps simmering a stock (http://franticallysimple.com/2011/09/how-to-make-your-own-vegetable-stock-in-a-crockpot-and-save-15/) and the other may have that nights dinner.
My new favorite slow-cooker “dish” is hot apple cider made from apple cores! Along with my vegetable odds and ends in the freezer (see link above) I keep up a collection of apple and pear cores too and when the last summer rays give way to cooler weather, my apple crumble is a big crowd pleaser so I always have a bag of apple cores ready to go. Let the apple cores simmer with the warming ginger root and cinnamon sticks and a beautifully aromatic bouquet of spicy goodness will greet you at the door. What more could you ask for after a blustery day than a hot drink and a house that hints at sweet memories of your favorite ski lodge?

Think of this recipe as a suggestion, playing around with the proportions to bring out the flavors you enjoy most. I had a lone mandarin so I sliced it up and threw it into my last batch. This won’t be sweet like a heated apple cider or juice but the cores lend a lovely scent and delicate flavor to the infusion of rejuvenating cinnamon and ginger.

Crockpot Cider
5-6 apple cores
generous helping of fresh ginger peeled and cut into chunks
3 cinnamon sticks
small handful cinnamon bark
3-5 cloves
Put all ingredients in large slow-cooker and fill with water. Set on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. To serve, ladle liquid into mugs and sweeten with honey to taste. Garnish with a citrus slice and fresh cinnamon stick in each cup. To store, strain the cooled liquid into glass jars or plastic containers and keep for up to a week in the fridge or longer in the freezer.

What? You say you don’t have any apple cores? Well, then it must be time to bake some apples!

Baked Apples
6 large good baking apples such as Golden Delicious or if you prefer tart, Granny Smith
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
⅓ cup chopped pecans
⅓ cup chopped raisin
1 tbsp butter or coconut oil
¾ boiling water
Preheat oven to 375°F, 190°C. Scoop out the core from the top of the apple leaving a well. Don’t cut all the way through. In a bowl, toss together, brown sugar, cinnamon, chopped pecans and raisins. Place apples in a baking pan and spoon mixture into each apple. Top with a dot of butter or coconut oil. Add boiling water to the baking pan and bake 40 minutes until tender but not mushy. Baste apples with pan juices several times while baking.
Serve warm.

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