Hot apple cider fills the entire house with a welcoming, spicy aroma. The spices here are a bit more exotic than the usual blend. You can find star anise and Sichuan peppercorns at Asian grocers and many supermarkets. Serve the rum on the side so guests can add as much as they wish, if any at all.
Make Ahead: The cider is best prepared just before serving
8 quarter-sized slices fresh ginger
8 whole star anise pods
Four 3-inch long cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns, optional
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 quarts fresh apple cider
Dark rum, for serving
1. Rinse a 12-inch square piece of cheesecloth under cold water and squeeze it dry. (This removes any sizing from the cloth.) Wrap the ginger, star anise, cinnamon sticks, optional peppercorns, cloves, and fennel in the cheesecloth and tie it with kitchen string.
2. Combine the cider and wrapped spices in a large nonaluminum pot. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, just until hot but not boiling, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a slow cooker or warming plate set on low and serve hot.
Excerpted from Celebrations 101 by Rick Rodgers (Broadway Books, 2004). © 2004 by Rick Rodgers.
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