Greetings on this crisp fall afternoon. Sometime in the last week or so, there have been subtle but noticeable changes in our household. I find now that the first thing I do after getting out of bed is to check that the heat is on. My favorite around-the-house wrap has emerged from the closet and will be a regular around my shoulders. Our dogs have had their annual surge of appetite as they prepare for cooler weather with an extra pound or two around the middle. Iced tea has been retired and hot tea rules as the beverage of choice during my workday.
A recent Facebook post from a friend who suspects a cold is about to descend on her made me think about how our need for hot drinks increases as the days get colder. So I’ve decided to pass on these three recipes for something hot and comforting. The first is a slight variation on the ever-popular hot chocolate. The second is my take on wassail, a venerable beverage originally made from mead (fermented honey with grains or fruit). The last one is for my friend Jean with the looming cold. It’s based on an old folk remedy for a stuffy nose.
Chocolate and peppermint are two flavors that just naturally go together. Here’s a delicious variation on hot cocoa, an old favorite.
8 ounces milk
1 each peppermint tea bag
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons sugar
Heat milk just to the boiling point without scalding it. Add the peppermint tea bag to the milk and let it steep for about two minutes. Remove tea bag from milk and discard. Add cocoa and sugar to taste. Stir and enjoy!
Wassail a la Ann
Wassail is a very old hot drink dating back to the days of the Vikings, those hard fighting, hard-drinking warriors that spread terror through the British Isles. The name comes from “Waas hail!” the traditional toast made when downing bowl-like mazers of this hot brew.
1 gallon apple juice
1 each orange sliced cross-wise
8 sticks cinnamon
1 tablespoon cloves whole
1 teaspoon nutmeg
8 each allspice berries
3/4 cup honey
1 cup rum or 1 tablespoon of rum extract
In a large pot or an electric crock pot place all ingredients except the rum or rum extract. Cover and cook on a simmer setting for at least 2 hours. During the first half hour, stir occasionally to ensure the honey dissolves. About a half hour before serving, add the rum (or rum extract) and sample the punch to check for flavor. If you are using a conventional pot, pour the hot liquid carefully into a punch bowl.
Hot Ginger Lemonade
Coming down with a cold? Time to pull out the teapot and make some hot ginger lemonade to counteract that nasty cold virus. To make hot ginger lemonade use only fresh ginger root. Powdered ginger just doesn’t pack the wallop you need. Grate two tablespoons of ginger into a two-cup teapot. Add boiling water and let steep for about ten minutes. Strain out the grated ginger as you pour the liquid into a mug. Add a tablespoon of honey, two tablespoons lemon juice, and a dash or two of cayenne pepper.
Each ingredient is beneficial in the fight against the rhinovirus attacking you. Ginger settles the stomach, stimulates the appetite, and aids in shrinking swollen membranes. Honey’s golden sweetness soothes the roughest throat. Lemon juice has anti-inflammatory properties and is a source of Vitamin C. Cayenne peppers have been valued for their warming, stimulating properties for centuries. It’s also great as an aid to cleaning out your sinuses. So the next time you feel the warning signs of a cold, don’t just reach for the aspirin. Go into the kitchen and bring out the teapot. By making yourself a cup of hot ginger lemonade you can beat back the sniffles and tackle your day with a smile.