Southern Arizona has already seen the daytime temperature drop out of the stifling highs of July and August, even as the summer monsoons are also fading away. This is the transition time into the most pleasant time of year in the Southwest, when temperatures are ideal clear into January and you will be wearing your shorts and a t-shirt for a Christmas cookout. Really--I didn't believe it until I visited here and was in shirtsleeves on Christmas Day as I drove west in Interstate 10 to visit Stout's Cider Mill near Sunsites.
So as I take my daily constitutional with my dog, pedaling through the late afternoon on my beautiful Schwinn adult tricycle, it wouldn't be bad at all to come back to a warm bowl of cider nowadays. Fortunately it isn't hard to do if you have a slow cooker, so set it up a couple of hours before dinner and you will have something to sip.
SLOW COOKED APPLE CRANBERRY CIDER
From Cooking Club of America
3 cinnamon sticks, broken
1 teaspoon whole cloves
2 quarts organic apple cider
3 cups organic cranberry juice
2 Tablespoons organic light brown sugar, or to taste
Place the cinnamon sticks and cloves in a double thickness of cheesecloth, bring up the corners and tie them with a string to make a bag.
Combine the cider, juice and brown sugar in a 5-quart slow cooker and turn the heat to HIGH. Place the spice bag inside the cider mixture, cover and cook for 2 hours to steep the spices into the cider.
Remove and discard the spice bag, and garnish with whole cranberries and cinnamon sticks as desired. Serve hot.
Fortunately these ingredients are never hard to find, with organic juices available all over Tucson. I have noticed that light brown sugar is beginning to appear in more recipes, probably because it is nearly interchangeable with granulated sugar. If you are in doubt, you can always use the blonde sugars such as Zulka or Florida Crystals, which are widely available in Tucson as well.