The holidays are right around the corner, which means it’s time to start our most favorite preparations. Want to take a guess at what that is?
Trimming the tree? Nope.
Polishing the menorah? Guess again!
Cleaning the house? Umm … what?
The answer is entertaining! There are many fabulous opportunities to indulge in good food, drink and company around the holidays. With a bit of planning, holiday meals and parties can be less stressful and more fun. Of course, planning ahead also helps you to stay organized and make more efficient trips to the grocery store — the last thing you need is to be running out for lemons or breadcrumbs when company is on the way. But it also gives you a chance to wield your creativity and craft gatherings that are as thoughtful as they are delicious.
Here are some of our suggestions for easy holiday entertaining:
- Keep the fridge stocked with Jack’s Hard Cider! One of the nicest things about the holiday season is that you never know when a friend or neighbor might stop in to say hello. Our crisp, balanced ciders are fantastic, crowd-pleasing libations to have on hand: beer drinkers love them, wine drinkers love them and all of our varieties are vegan and gluten-free, to boot. Stock up with a few 12-packs and you’ll always be ready to offer a hospitable gesture to every guest in your home.
- No skimping on the snacks: Holiday gatherings are all about cozy socializing with plenty of opportunities to leisurely graze. Whether that’s pre-dinner happy hour or just a casual nosh, it’s best to be prepared for the inevitable snack times. Pick up a few extra wedges of cheese, logs of salami or other charcuterie, jars of olives and packages of crackers and a gourmet spread is always at your fingertips.
Don’t forget the cocktails! Pair a snack plate with Stone Fence cocktails: Fill two six-ounce rocks glasses with ice and pour in Jack’s Hard Cider Helen’s Blend. Add an ounce of dark rum (from a local distillery, if possible!) to each, and stir. Why “Stone Fence”? Lore has it that Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain boys fortified themselves with this cocktail the night before they took Fort Ticonderoga. Apparently, those who had too many weren’t as helpful, as they sat and stared ahead, reminding their compatriots of a stone fence. Yup, they’re that delicious.
- Have a go at a holiday ham: Cooking big family dinners can be a daunting task, but a recipe for a foolproof main dish makes everything feel a bit more manageable. A holiday ham is a traditional treat, but we find it often disappoints in the texture and flavor department. Cider to the rescue! Once we tried a cider-glazed ham, we never looked back. This Food & Wine recipe from chef Carla Hall (of Top Chef and The Chew fame) combines cider, butter, brown sugar, bourbon and spices to create a sticky-sweet glaze that keeps the ham tender and full of flavor. We recommend our seasonal Fireside Cider, subtly spiced with cinnamon, ginger, cloves and vanilla in place of the apple cider in the recipe and paired along with the ham at dinner.
- Add a little booze to brunch: Holiday mornings are a lovely, lazy time, perfect for a decadent — and, for the adults, slightly boozy — brunch. Pair something seasonal and low-stress, like apple cider pancakes (we love this recipe from Well Floured) with a hard cider mimosa. Simply pour Jack’s Hard Cider Original or Conewago Blend into a champagne flute and top with a splash of orange juice. Feeling a bit fancier? Pick up some packaged peach nectar and make a Jack’s Bellini.
What are your favorite ways to prepare for the holidays? Let us know in the comments!
Jack’s Hard Cider — Produced from Pennsylvania Apples. Pressed On-Site. Never from Concentrate.
Photos, top to bottom: Pexels; Polly Patrono Carlson; Pexels