Happy October, folks! I’m sorry to make my fellow millennials feel old, but this year just so happens to be the 25th Anniversary of Hocus Pocus. Inspired by this 1993 Halloween classic about three musical Salem witches running amok (amok! amok!), my fellow blogger friends and I have put together some recipes and crafting tutorials for you.
Read on or click here to skip to my recipe for Hocus Pocus-Inspired Salem Spiced Cider!
Twist the Bones and Bend the Back
She also brings us a brownie recipe that will make everyone say “Je veux mon livre!”
And finally, we have my recipe for an easy, crock-pot herbed and spiced cider with some late 17th-Century Salem flavors.
Historical Hocus Pocus
We see a traditional colonial party at Allison’s house with homemade cider. Being an American Colonial History nerd back then, I remember wanting a house like that, a party like that, and most importantly, a dress like that.
I remember begging my mom to make me a Colonial party dress for Halloween — which I still have. I just couldn’t explain to my friends what the heck I was dressing as at the time. The closest things I have to it now are probably my Rococopunk costumes. I digress, though.
The film clearly gives us clues as to how much Allison and her family are local history buffs. Allison takes marked offense to Max scoffing at the story of the Sanderson Sisters. Allison’s mother used to run the Sanderson House Museum. Also once again, did you notice those costumes at Allison’s house? These are not some throwaway costumes or community-theatre rentals. These outfits look like the work of enthusiastic reenactors from the top of their powdered wigs to the toes of their leather buckled shoes.
I bring this up because it would make sense for them to serve period-appropriate food as well. Sure, set out a giant vat of generic candy for the trick-or-treaters. The guests, however, probably sup on all the 17th-century delights that a late-20th-century kitchen could produce. So this brings me back to the cider.
Were I to go completely period accurate, I would teach you how to fresh-press your own cider and then ferment it. However, with Halloween around the corner, time is of the essence. Also, Allison wouldn’t offer THAT kind of cider to an eight-year-old, ESPECIALLY in a Disney movie. So for this recipe, I figured I would spice this concoction with ingredients available to Massachusetts colonists during the time of the witch trials.
A Taste of 17th-Century Salem
While the standard spiced recipe tends to use cinnamon, clove, and ginger ad nauseam, these ingredients were expensive imports during the time of the witch trials. Don’t get me wrong. They were also in mulled cider recipes at the time. I just want to give you something a little different, a taste of early America, if you will.
That’s why I chose to use herbs that would be common to the colonist’s garden — rosemary, sage, and thyme. I didn’t wholly omit spices, though. Out of all the spices found in a mulled cider, only allspice draws origins from the Western hemisphere. This spice would likely come in with the regular shipments of sugar and molasses from the Caribbean. Better yet, the name “allspice” was coined as early as 1621 by the English, who thought it combined the flavor of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Three spices for the price of one. You’re welcome.
For that extra historical note, I chose to use whole cane sugar to sweeten this cider. Crockpots do tend to mellow out flavors, so back-sweetening is sometimes necessary. Adding cane, turbinado, or brown sugar will give you a molasses-like, rustic flavor that pairs well with another common Jamaican-import.
Since the residents of Hocus Pocus’s early Salem take All Hallow’s Eve very seriously, it would also make sense that their cider would protect one from witches like the Sanderson Sisters. The entry for pot marigolds in Herbs and Herb Lore of Colonial America states that “golds were an almost invulnerable armor against witchcraft” because they reflected the light of the sun. Given the Sandersons’ sunrise-demise, I decided to incorporate this belief by adding “golds” into the mix.
A common medicinal herb in the American colonies, marigolds, or calendula flowers, were also used for dying fabric and coloring cheese. You can find dried calendula in Whole Foods, some ethnic supermarkets, and even on Amazon. With its pleasant scent and some golden apple slices garnishing your cup, you have all the gold you need to protect yourself from those pesky, soul-stealing broom-jockeys.
I Put a Spell on You
Hocus Pocus Spiced Cider
Makes one gallon of cider.
Equipment: Stovetop, small saucepan, whisk, crock pot, 1 to 2 herb infusers.
- 1 gallon of apple cider
- 1/4 cup dried marigold (calendula) petals
- 2-3 small sprigs fresh rosemary
- 4-6 leaves fresh sage
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice, plus more for garnish
- 1 cup whole cane or brown sugar
- 3-4 golden apples
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Bring 2 cups of the cider to a boil on the stovetop. Whisk in the sugar and allspice and lower the heat to a simmer. Allow the syrup to cook for three minutes then turn off the heat.
- Pour the remaining cider into the crockpot, then stir in your cider syrup. Stuff the thyme and sage in one of the infusers, and the rosemary and marigold in the other. Add the infusers to the crock pot and cover with the lid. Slow-cook the cider on low for four hours.
- Before serving, core and thinly slice the apples. Toss the apple slices in a bowl with the lemon juice to keep from browning.
- Serve cider in heat-safe cups, topped with apple slices and a dash of allspice.