January 22, 2013

Taking the Chill out of Winter: Apple-Ginger Hot Toddy with Calvados

Brew me a cup for a winter's night.
For the wind howls loud and the furies fight;
Spice it with love and stir it with care,
And I'll toast our bright eyes,
my sweetheart fair
                                             Minna Thomas Antrim
There is much to love, I think, about winter. Blazing hot logs in the fireplace; the crunch of snow on a blinding bright sunny winter’s day; the brilliant flash of cardinals lingering at the bird feeder, their song calling to the more timid house finches and chickadees. Cosy thick sweaters; cashmere scarves soft as a baby’s cheek. The days inching longer and with them, the promise of spring.

But winter has its dark underbelly too.  Dreary naked branches longing for green; slushy wet snow that seeps into your boots and between your toes.  The monotony of root vegetables and wooden tomatoes.  And worst of all...the dreaded spectre of colds and flu.  My usual stamina and boundless energy often get caught unawares, a cold creeping in on cat’s feet and settling in for a long winter’s nap. 
As I try and shake off the vestiges of a lingering cough, I do the sensible thing and make a steaming hot toddy full of natural goodness and a little bit of something stiffer.  By the time I’ve drained the last spicy dregs, I feel the warmth seeping down to my toes and my eyes drooping.  Winter may not be over, but my cold, on its last shaky legs, totters out the door.

Apple-Ginger Hot Toddy with Calvados 
Makes one serving 

This toddy uses a generous amount of cayenne pepper, rich in capsaicin.  An ancient remedy for all sorts of ills, cayenne is also known to have anti-irritant properties, easing sore throats and lingering coughs.  If you prefer a milder version either reduce the amount or eliminate the cayenne entirely.
1 c apple cider, heated
1 oz Calvados, or more to taste* 
Three thick slices fresh ginger, cut in slivers
Generous pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 cinnamon stick
1 lemon wedge, spiked with three whole cloves
The juice of ½ lemon
1 tsp honey (more to taste)
1 ginger teabag (I use Pukka Three Ginger Tea

*Calvados, a French brandy from Normandy, adds an extra glow to this toddy

Combine all of the ingredients in a large mug and top with boiling water. Let steep for at least five minutes. Scoop out the solids and the teabag, leaving just the lemon wedge. Wrap up in your favourite blanket, sit back and enjoy.

Piercing the lemon with cloves is a practical way to avoid swallowing
one whole...

Magical natural ingredients: lemon, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cayenne and honey combine with calvados, apple cider and tea to fight the worst of winter's chills