Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Good Ol' Hal

You guys know I'm a sucker for marketing okay. It sucks me in, I'll admit it. And when halloween rocks around the corner, I get as excited as a tween watching American Pie for the first time. Carving pumpkins (and spending some serious dough while we're at it, they are not cheap this time of year), pumpkin spice everything (but actually. every. thing.) and homemade apple cider...

Which brings us here: A pretty self explanatory guide to carving *cue informercial voice* YOUR VERY OWN PUMPKIN ! Oh, and an apple cider recipe. This kind, not this kind. I could understand how that could be a little misleading. We will, unfortunately, not be mixing up dodgy alcohol in our kitchens today, sorry guys.

xx Margot Ana

Homemade Apple Cider

What you will need: 
- A dozen apples, washed, quartered and cored (I used a mix of granny smith and red delicious)
- 1/2 a cup to a cup of brown sugar (depending on how sweet you'd like it)
- 4 cinnamon sticks (halved)
- 1 tablespoon of cloves
- 1 whole nutmeg (chopped)
- Cheesecloth

Optional: 1 valencia orange, sliced in wheels to garnish your drink (you can also cook the orange with the rest of the ingredients, I prefer it fresh and added in at the last minute)

Place your apples in a large stock pot, and pour in enough water to cover the fruit. Turn on the heat to medium.

Place your spices in a smaller piece of cheesecloth, to keep them together while your cider boils - they will be much easier to remove later. I used another thin piece of cheesecloth as string.

Put in your brown sugar.

And your spices.

Put the lid on, bring the heat up to high, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat again and let simmer for about an hour.

Mash up your fruit (being careful not the puncture the bag of spices).

Simmer for another 2 hours.

Let cool completely. Take out your spices and strain the cider through a cheesecloth. Squeeze all the juices out of the cheesecloth, and discard the pulp. You may have to do this in batches. (Cheers Dad for helping me out here, pouring 2 litres of cider and taking photos at the same time is close to impossible)

You should be left with a slightly cloudy pulp-free liquid. You can serve it hot, with a slice of fresh orange or star anise, or it can be equally nice to consume chilled.

Carving Pumpkins 101
Now you can get all professional and use a keyhole saw, miniature saws, scrapers and needle tools. But all I had (and wanted to invest in) were knives and a trusty soup spoon... AND IT WORKED. So it's going to be fine guys, no need to buy that pumpkin kit. Unless you want to make this. Or this. But we're not there yet, baby steps okay.  

1. Cut a hole in the top of your pumpkin - I used a steak knife for this, the jagged teeth help a lot, trust me.

2. Scoop out the flesh, pulp and seeds. You should be left with a clean pumpkin such as this one. 

3. Get creative with your designs. Mark them out first with a market or pen, carve them in, and get rid of any still visible pen marks with a little bit of nail polish remover and a cotton ball.

4. Place a little tea light candle or a larger one (make sure it has a tall glass around it) to light up your pumpkin. You can also use electric lights, in which case, make sure you cut a hole in the bottom of your pumpkin to hide and pass the cord through.

Happy Halloween everyone ! 

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