One of the best uses for your slow cooker, most specifically a large round or oval, is to make hot drinks for celebrations, especially during the winter holidays. Hot drinks give the ambiance of a warm welcome to guests. Hot punches are always better mixed in advance and allowed to sit over low heat for a few hours to steep and blend. The cooker keeps the liquids at a very low simmer for not only heating up and letting the brew macerate flavors, but for the hours during the party as well. Hot drinks, also in the past called possets and cups, were originally heated by thrusting a red-hot poker into a crock of wine. This method is still used by hardy souls with a flair for recreating the romance of the past, but it is much easier to rely on your slow cooker. Goodbye to the guests tramping into the kitchen to serve off the stove out of your stockpot or the portable burner on the dining room table. The slow cooker as a punch bowl is neat and safe (be sure to place so the cord is not in a place for someone to trip over). It will not tip over either! You can serve directly out of the cooker and leave it on Keep Warm or Low all evening.
Beth lived on Skyline Boulevard, overlooking the Santa Clara Valley, for all the the 1970s. Her landlord’s parents, John and Esther Sills, were eccentric intellectuals and potters from Maine. They would have many guests in their handmade house and pottery workshop (they roasted turkey for Thanksgiving in the kiln) overlooking the ocean, including Zen scholar Alan Watts or the then mayor of San Francisco, Jack Shelley, come the long winding one-lane road to visit and share a meal on late Sunday afternoons and discuss the serious issues of the day. During the winter months, Esther would always have a kettle with mulled hot cranberry juice on the side stove, with a long handled ladle hanging on the side, and a tray of many different size and shape hand thrown pottery mugs from their workshop. Each person could choose their own mug. Beth would look into that oversized kettle and watch the cranberries pop as they heated up as she sipped the soothing hot nog.
Cooker: Large Round
Machine Setting and Cook Time: Low Heat: 4 to 6 hours
Makes about 2 dozen 6-ounce drinks
1 gallon cranberry juice cocktail
6 4-inch pieces cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon whole cloves
2 sliced lemons
2 sliced oranges
1/2 cup honey, or to taste
Place the cranberry juice and whole fresh cranberries in the cooker. Add the cinnamon stick, cloves, lemon slices, orange slices and honey. Cover and simmer on LOW at least 4 to 6 hours. Serve hot, ladled into mugs.
Excerpted from Not Your Mother’s SLow Cooker Cookbook, by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann. (c) 2002/2016, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.