Apples are one of the best things about fall. You can bake with them, make your own applesauce and apple butter, and dip them in caramel for candied apples. And then there's apple cider. Personally, I can't resist a jug of fresh apple cider at the orchard or farmers market. Problem is, sometimes it's hard to use up a whole jug. Boiled cider solves that problem.
We've talked before about the importance of apples in U.S. food history. Apples were one of the first crops planted by colonists; at first in New England, and then later on in other parts of the country, many farms large and small had an apple orchard.
One of the things farmers made with apples was apple cider. You could press apples that people wouldn't eat and still get use out of them. But apple cider (unless it's been fermented, and there was a lot of that going on, too) is perishable. So as to not waste apple cider, farmers would preserve it by boiling it down to a syrup. In New England especially, you may see it called apple molasses.
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This here is my most magical fall discovery: Boiled cider. The old New England recipe is just that: Boil apple cider until it reduces into a thick, honey-like creation that’s such a deep and intense expression of the season. I’ve been drizzling it on yogurt and oatmeal for breakfast, vegetables that I am about to roast for dinner, and ice cream for dessert. Next up, I am thinking about swapping it in for the sugar in an Old Fashioned. 🥃🍎
How to Make Boiled Cider
Boiled cider is the easiest thing in the world to make. All you need is one ingredient, a large pot, a source of heat and several hours.
To make boiled cider syrup, you definitely want to use unfiltered apple cider (and not apple juice). You can buy jugs of cider at the grocery store or get fresh cider at the farmers market; it doesn't have to be expensive, but since you're concentrating the flavor, make sure it's a cider you like.
Pour at least a half-gallon of cider into a heavy-bottomed, non-reactive pot. A dutch oven, copper or stainless steel stockpot will work best; don't use aluminum unless it's coated. The more cider you want to reduce, the larger a pot you'll need.
Bring the cider to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat so that the cider simmers. Let it simmer. uncovered, for three to five hours. Stir the liquid every half hour or so. The total cook time will depend on how much fresh cider you start with. When the boiled cider is done, it should be about 1/7 of the original volume. In other words, if you start with half a gallon, you'll end up with just over a cup of boiled cider. It will be thick and have a deep caramel color.
Let the apple cider syrup cool to room temperature, then pour it into a clean jar, cover the jar, and then store it in the refrigerator.
Two notes here. You can make boiled cider in a slow cooker, though it's going to take closer to 24 hours for the apple cider to reduce completely, even with the slow cooker on high. You can also add spices or a splash of vanilla or rum to the apple cider; if you use spices, it's best to use whole spices so that it's easier to remove them at the end of cooking; you can tie them up in a piece of cheesecloth so that you don't have to pick them out.
You should also know that your whole house will smell amazing while the boiled cider is simmering.
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Boiled cider for the win! It’s one of my favorites and lucky for my recent overwhelm, I had 2 gallons of cider in the fridge that had gone by and was ready for reducing. 2 gallons to 2 pints— super intense and tasty. A bit of it will go in pie for tomorrow and the rest will be good for months. With the approach of winter, my indoor plants are bringing us joy. The potted citrus smells like jasmine and the hibiscus and bay add a little extra greenery. I’m hoping to get into the woods this week— it’s been a while. I’ve been loving seeing what everyone else is creating and concocting for their herbals— so inspiring! #boiledcider #traditionalsweeteners #bayisamazing #plantsmakemehappy
How to use apple cider syrup
Use boiled cider in and on anything where you want a sweet kick. You can use it in place of a sweetener like maple syrup or honey. Pour it over waffles and french toast. It's a revelation drizzled over ice cream. Mix it with olive oil and a bit of apple cider vinegar for a delightful fall salad vinaigrette. Mix it with softened butter and spread it on biscuits or muffins.
Boiled cider is an excellent cocktail ingredient. Whiskey and boiled cider may be the only fall cocktail you ever drink again. You can also mix boiled cider syrup with seltzer water for an easy non-alcoholic drink.
Because the flavor is so concentrated, use the cider syrup in any dish where you want more apple flavor, including apple pie, apple cake or cider donuts. You can also use the syrup to make apple cider caramels. It works in savory dishes, too; think of a pork chop glaze.
I made two batches, one with cinnamon and other apple pie spices and one with bourbon. They're both so good and they add so much flavor to oatmeal and granola and yogurt; I've used it in muffins, too, and it adds great flavor without the sugar or preservatives. It's my new favorite sweetener.
Boiled cider syrup keeps in the fridge indefinitely, so you could also pour the syrup into small glass jars and give your new favorite secret ingredient as homemade gifts.
This article was originally published on December 2, 2019.