Hosting a Bonfire Block Party

campfire The days between the last summer block party and the neighborhood christmas party can seem long and dull indeed.  Our weeks are filled with jobs and school and our weekends seem to be overwhelmed with yardwork and errands.  Planning a bonfire block party can help everyone get their lawns in shape for winter and break up the frenetic, cooped up,  antisocial feeling of late autumn.

After a large fall storm, most homeowners face a large clean up and disposal of yard debris.  Chances are most of your neighbors will face this before the snow  makes maintenance impossible.  Instead of having several separate dump trips, mulching days or small yard fires to dispose of everyone’s debris, invite your neighborhood to participate in a day of clean up, both for their own yards and any common areas you may share.  Instead of hauling away all the debris,  host a neighborhood bonfire as an end of day celebration.

Things to keep in mind: 

  • You will want to host a bonfire in an area where there is no risk of spreading the fire and somewhere that won’t be damaged by fire.  A neighbor with an already built firepit or a common gravel or blacktop area  all work.  Make sure you have volunteers that will help clean up afterwords!
  • Let your neighbors know this is for yard debris or fallen trees only.  Treated wood and garbage will not only smoke your party out, it will damage the air in your neighborhood
  • Make sure to get a fire permit from your town’s fire marshall.  The fire marshall will also check your burn spot and weather conditions so that everybody stays safe!
  • Make sure to have plenty of hoses and access to water just in case
  • Create a perimeter around the fire with chairs, tables, or coolers to keep small children from wandering too close to the flames

Throughout the day, your neighbors can pile their yard debris at your burn spot and at dusk you can let the festivities begin!

Warm, hearty dishes to keep everyone happy

Of course, a bonfire block party is an excellent excuse to get the grills out one last time, but there are a few menu items that make a bonfire block party truly special.  The key is to think warm!  You may be experiencing a particularly balmy day for your clean up (and we hope you are!) but when the sun sets it’s going to get pretty chilly, even with a blazing bonfire.  So skip the cold dips and salads and serve warming drinks, sweet desserts and root vegetable kabobs. 

Of course, hot chocolate and coffee are staples at any bonfire, but here is our favorite mulled cider recipe:

To make an extra large batch for your block party, try brewing the cider in a stock pot and storing it in a cooler keg (these can keep things warm as well as cold).

  • You will need 2-3 gallons of your favorite apple cider, which should be available at your local supermarket (don’t use apple juice, it has an entirely different flavor) 
  • 3 tblspns Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 tblspn Nutmeg
  • Ground clove to taste (between 1/2 tblspn and 1 tblspn)
  • 3 cups brown sugar

Begin by heating your cider over low heat just until it starts to simmer.  Add the sugar and spices and stir.  Keep over low heat and simmer about ten minutes, when you start to smell the spices (it will smell as if you are baking a pie), your cider is ready to serve.  What makes this recipe our favorite however, is an added caramel sauce:

  • You will want to combine the syrup and cider at the last moment, otherwise the syrup will harden on the bottom of your container
  • You will need 2 cups cream
  • 2 cups light karo syrup
  • 2 cups of sugar (we prefer brown, but white sugar works well too)

Pour all ingredients into a heavy saucepan.  Stir your ingredients over low to medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and then don’t stir again.  Bring your ingredients to a rolling boil until you reach the soft ball stage (if you don’t have a candy thermometer, drip some caramel from your spoon into ice water, if it forms a soft, squishy ball but doesn’t spread out, you are at the correct stage) and remove it from the heat. If you like, add one teaspoon of vanilla and stir quickly.  Store in a thermos until your party.  When serving your cider, add a nice spoonful of the caramel and stir.

In our next post we’ll share more recipes and tricks to make your bonfire block party an unforgettable annual event!

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