Lettuce Eat Local: This Weather Is So Ex-Cider-Ing

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“When Will It Be Spring?” asks the title of a blue-spined kids’ book on our shelf. I find myself often asking the same question, knowing full well it will be a long time yet but still needing to wonder. If these inhuman temperatures persist, I will cease to wonder and begin to desperately beseech any and all within earshot: when will it be spring?! 

I don’t have any reason to complain. Though our house is old, the heat works great. The doors and windows are not all airtight — we have to slide a barricade along the base of the garage-side door to stop the full flow of cold air, and the windows are often so iced over we can barely see out — but it’s comfortably warm inside anyway. 

Which is good, because outside it’s NOT. Benson typically likes to tag along while I do my chores, to roar at the chickens while I collect the eggs or carry Grandma’s mail over to the barn desk; these last couple weeks, however, he’s only come a few times, and usually cries to go in before I’m done. 

Not like I have a lot of eggs to collect. I don’t know if they’re freezing inside the hens or what, but I’ll go days without a single egg — and if there is one, it’s probably frozen solid in the brooder box anyway. Chickens are remarkably resilient to the cold weather with their insulating feathers, but I’m sure the hens are still wondering when it will be spring, too. 

Recently I discovered a benefit of the cold, though. I hardboiled a few eggs (from a friend whose flock apparently loves her more than mine does me), and had the genius idea of sticking the pan outside in the snow to cool off quickly. Not surprisingly, it worked. Perhaps too efficiently, since I’m afraid they were very hard (i.e. frozen) by the time I remembered what I had done, but at least that’s something I can’t do in the spring. 

Speaking of frozen hard, I had a bag of mandarin oranges sitting in the garage. I had room in the fridge, so I have a hard time articulating my reasoning for leaving them out except that it seemed ecologically appropriate to utilize the naturally chilling environment. The day I backed the van out and heard the distinct crack of wheels unfreezing from the cement was the day I realized my garage was no longer a fridge but a freezer. Of course some fruits are great to freeze, but whole oranges rarely fit on that list. However, thanks to arctic temperatures, we learned that blending a bunch of mandarin oranges makes orange juice (expected) that’s so full of natural pectin that it gels in the fridge like a magical creamsicle (unexpected). 

I’m now more judiciously utilizing the everpresent chill available to us. I’ve been making batches of broth in my multicooker, and while I love the end product, I do not love its pervasive aroma as it cools — which I have been saved from by a freezing cold garage that does the cooling for me. Out there, the pot of yogurt was set on the counter to chill, the lemon cake was stored out of the two-year-old’s line of sight, the hot pudding was cooled quickly. Thank you, Winter.

That’s nice and all, but still, when will it be spring?

 

Cider Slushie

Let’s keep pretending this cold is good for something! Here we do have a handy, fun way to make a cheerful cold drink; it comes with the caveat that you might need to pair it with a hot beverage, so save the other half of the cider to heat up and counteract the chill from the slush. Remember that this is mostly cider, so use a brand that you like. 

Prep tips: obviously if it isn’t freezing outside, this won’t work so well, but I consider that a win. If you still want a cider slushie, just make space in your freezer and proceed, or blend the ingredients with some ice.

a plastic gallon jug of cider, half full

a handful of cinnamon red hot candies

¼ cup maple syrup, or to taste

2-3 tablespoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons allspice or cloves

optional: ¼ cup powdered chai mix

Add all the ingredients into the jug of cider, shake vigorously to combine, and set it outside in the snow when temperatures are below freezing. Shake it every few hours until it’s frozen to slushy consistency. Serve, garnished with extra red hots and cinnamon sticks as straws if you want.

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