It felt like a stroke of good luck to be invited to visit Devoto Gardens a few weeks ago. Visiting an apple orchard was on my fall to-do list and the season was nearly up.
The Friday that I headed up to their gorgeous Sebastopol acreage, it was pouring rain. I love crazy weather, perhaps because it’s so infrequent here in mild-mannered coastal California. So rain wasn’t gonna stop me from this much-anticipated apple tour. And farmers, of course, are a sturdy breed. They have no choice but to tolerate unpredictable weather. So it wasn’t gonna stop them either.
Hunter and Jolie are awesome. They are totally apple-obsessed, exactly the kind of folks you want to be growing and celebrating apples. They were so well-versed in the nuances of texture and flavor of all kinds of heirloom apple varieties – gorgeous, tart, complex fruits that put supermarket apples to sad shame.
And the photos that I have from the day make me so unbelievably happy. I love the dramatic moodiness of the orchard at the end of its run, the water-soaked landscape, the dedicated kitty who followed us everywhere, and their willingness to share their life and passion with me.
I wanted to make something that celebrated the hard cider – Apple Sauced – that Hunter and Jolie create with heirloom Gravenstein apples. And this time of year, mulled cider is a comfort. It’s fortified with bourbon for added oomph and spiced with cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper and ginger. It tastes like late fall heaven.
MULLED BOURBON CIDER
22 ounce bottle of hard, dry cider – find Devoto at Bay Area farmers’ markets
4 ounces quality bourbon, such as Maker’s Mark or Bulleitt
4 tablespoons honey
8 slices (quarter-sized, roughly) fresh ginger
8 cardamom pods
3 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Lady apples, sliced thinly on a mandoline, for garnish
In a medium pan over low heat, combine the cider, bourbon, honey and spices. Bring to the gentlest simmer, then immediately turn off heat and cover. Let steep for at least an hour. I like to let it steep for longer; it will get spicier as it sits, so taste it every so often to make sure it doesn’t go beyond your tastes for ginger and black pepper.
If it has cooled to room temperature, gently reheat over a low flame.