It was 1984 and we were living in Shoreview, MinneSNOWta....I had been asked to join a Children's Hospital Guild and when I went to my very first meeting - I discovered Cider "Bugs!" I don't know who came up with the idea - it could have been any one of the amazing women in that guild - they are the most talented bunch of women that I have ever known - and the most kind hearted. The monthly meetings were filled with fun and great ideas of what to make for the annual Children's Hospital Bazaar, which raised money for families who could not pay for medical care for their children. The Cider "Bugs" were made and sold, and they always went fast. I was smitten with them instantly and since 1984, I have made them at Christmas every year.
I like to have some on hand to give to guests who might stop by during the holidays....and I love to put them in the packages I mail - when the package is opened the recipient is first greeted by the scent of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and orange....which hopefully puts them in a forgiving mood for when they see my gift!
Cider "Bugs" are a little fussy to make but I like to turn on a Christmas movie - The Hallmark Channel has some of the best - and while I watch the movie I assemble the "bugs"....oh, they are called "bugs" because they resemble one when finished - not because there are actual bugs in the "bugs"...
Cider "Bugs" are not just a pretty, little Christmas novelty....oh no...they serve a wonderful purpose, too! You drop the entire "bug" into a quart and a half of cider and let it simmer for 30 minutes - serve it hot and enjoy!
Have you been on the ride at Disneyland/World called California Adventure? On the ride, when you "fly" over the orange groves you can actually smell the oranges....well, baking oranges in your oven is not quite a Disney ride but it will smell like one! I think that's what I love most about these "bugs"... the smell!
Speaking of smells....I had the oranges baking....the spices open and on the counter....the kitchen was smelling so, so good....and yet...there was something - somewhere.....I opened the cupboard under the sink to sniff the garbage can....nothing....I opened the fridge to see if there were any tell-tell odors in there....nothing....
I even lifted up Caesar Beezer The Wonder Dog's tail so see if...well, he was clean as a whistle....and I apologized to him immediately for having suspected him! He's such a good boy.
I looked in the mirror - there was nothing on my upper lip! Where could it be coming from?!? Now I was on a mission....got the flashlight out, looked under the stove - nothing....I was totally stumped! And then, out of the corner of my eye, I spied something underneath the sofa....
C A E S A R !!!!! Not a good dog after all! Bad dog....very bad dog! He had gone into his brother's room and carted off his trash - then hid it under the sofa!
Mystery solved - dog banished - back to the "bugs." Once the "bugs" are assembled I place them into cellophane bags and tie them with a pretty ribbon. I also put a sticker on the back of the bag, with directions for using the "bug." I tried to take a pic of the sticker but it didn't come out...I'm hoping Santa will bring me a new camera for Christmas. If you don't use stickers you can just make a little tag and attach.
Cider "Bugs" - Pots and Pins
To make 20 Cider "Bugs" you will need:
10 Navel oranges, cut in half, pick the biggest oranges you can find, as they shrink
1 lb. of brown sugar
10 cinnamon sticks, cut in half, for the body
5 whole nutmeg, cut in quarters, for the head
160 whole Cloves, for the legs
The day before you assemble the "bugs," cut the oranges in half, juice them - fresh orange juice is such a luxury - and remove all the pulp - all of it! I use a grapefruit spoon to do this. If you leave any pulp in the orange peel it will not dry and the sugar will absorb the liquid from it and become hard. Place the oranges on a cookie sheet and into a 200 degree oven for about 3 hours, until the peels are completely hard and dried.
Fill each dried peel with brown sugar, mounding up the "tummy" area. Let the peels sit, with the sugar in them for about 30 minutes - just until the sugar dries out a little on top.
Place a cinnamon stick, that has been cut to approximately 1 1/2 inches in length in the center of the "bug" for the body.
Push 8 cloves into the sugar for the legs - four on each side. Carefully push the sugar up and around the cloves and body to hold them in place.
Place the nutmeg into the sugar at one end of the cinnamon stick, making the head. Place two whole Allspice on either side of the nutmeg, at the top, for the eyes. Your "bug" is now complete!
Carefully slide bug into a cellophane bag or wrap it in plastic wrap and tie with a ribbon. Attach directions and you're all done.
Directions: Drop Cider "Bug" into 1 1/2 quarts of cider and simmer for 30 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of Brandy, if desired. Serve hot and enjoy!
This is a great activity to do with kids - they like making "bugs!"