Drinking Apples on a Cold Night
Lamb's Wool, as this delicious hot drink is called, is a Twelfth Night tradition in Great Britain but it is welcome any time it's cold outside. It is ideal here in Sonoma County, where we have fabulous apples, delicious ciders, and great handcrafted ales.
I like to serve this on Christmas Eve, especially if it is cold or stormy, and on Twelfth Night, which I’ve long celebrated with my family. In Sonoma County, we have a lot of delicious hard ciders to choose from but, no matter where you live, there are great options. You can, if you prefer, make this kid-friendly by using a nonalcoholic cider. An added benefit, beyond taste and satisfaction, are the health attributes of apples. Read about the apple as a superfood here, at Helen Nicholos’ website, well-beingsecrets.com.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Set the apples in a baking dish with a lid, add enough boiling water to come 1/2-inch up the sides of the dish, cover, and bake until the apples are very tender, from 25 to 45 minutes, depending on variety. Remove from the oven and let cool.
Meanwhile, pour the cider or ale into a large saucepan set over low heat, add half the sugar, the vanilla bean, the ginger, the cinnamon, and several gratings of fresh nutmeg. Slowly bring to a simmer and stir continuously until the sugar is dissolved. Cover and set aside to steep while the apples cook.
When the apples are cool enough to handle, cut them in half crosswise and pass them through a potato ricer or food mill fitted with its larger blade.
Remove the vanilla bean, ginger, and cinnamon from the liquid and either discard them or put them in a small jar, cover, and refrigerate; use within a few days to make another batch.
Stir the apple pulp into the liquid, add the butter, and set over medium heat. Taste, and if the mixture is not as sweet as you'd like, stir in the remaining half cup of sugar. When the mixture is hot, remove from the heat, pour into a pitcher and enjoy right away.
You can gussy this up with Calvados or another apple brandy if you like. To do so, simply add a shot to each glass, rather than to the entire pitcher.