Brown sugar (Recipe: mulled cider)
If you've been reading The Perfect Pantry for a while, you know a lot about me.
You know that I live in Rhode Island, in a log house in the woods, with a nice kitchen and an herb garden and a fire pit outside.
You know that I love Asian noodles and coffee and that stuff that isn't really mayonnaise.
You know that I am old... old enough to think of this whenever someone says brown sugar...
If you are old like me, you're singing along now, with the image playing in your head of Mick Jagger in perpetual motion and a pink satin suit circa 1971.
If you're not quite as old, the brown sugar image in your head might be more like this:
Brown sugar -- the type we buy in the supermarket -- is refined white sugar with molasses added (or containing residual molasses from the refining process). Light brown sugar contains 3.5 percent molasses; dark brown has up to 6.5 percent. The darker the color, the stronger the taste.
In my pantry at the moment I have four types of brown sugar: light and dark (no-name store brand), from my local market; turbinado, a chunkier raw sugar which has been partially processed, where only the surface molasses has been washed off, yielding a blond color and mild brown sugar flavor; and demerara, a light brown crystal. Turbinado and demerara are often used in tea and other beverages, and as a crunchy topping for cookies; both are Ted's addition to the pantry, as he has become our resident cookie baker.
I store all types of brown sugar in glass jars with tight-fitting lids; even so, the sugar often hardens before you have a chance to use it. You can reclaim your sugar by putting a piece of bread in the jar, and leaving it overnight. The next morning, like magic, the bread is hard but the sugar is soft. Go figure.
You can substitute one cup of firmly packed brown sugar for one cup of granulated sugar in many recipes, or try some great sweet and savory recipes that call for brown sugar, like maple mustard glazed chicken, gluten-free blueberry muffins, brown sugar chocolate chip cookies, baked acorn squash, cinnamon biscotti, buttermilk waffles, peppery lemon brown sugar salmon, or a brown sugar cake with prunes and apples.
All delicious, and all guaranteed to make you sing.
Adapted from Some Like It Hot: 50 Drinks to Warm Your Spirits by Holly Burrows and Katie Walter -- a book I won on a Baking and Books giveaway -- this recipe is best if made with unpasteurized apple cider from a local orchard. If you don't live in Apple Land, use the freshest cider you can find at the market. Serves 12; can be doubled or tripled.
12 cups apple cider
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tsp grated lemon zest
2 tsp grated orange zest
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
4 whole cloves
2 whole allspice berries
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of kosher salt
12 cinnamon sticks for garnish
Mix all ingredients except the 12 cinnamon sticks in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, strain, and discard the solids. Ladle into mugs and garnish each with a cinnamon stick.
Note: You can also make this in a slow cooker on low for 3-4 hours. Great for a party!