What if there was an ingredient you could add to gravies, cocktails, braises and baked goods that cost a fraction of what spirits and vanilla do? That’d be apple cider, the delightful, unfiltered sibling to apple juice (which you shouldn’t mistake for spiced cider). These days the cider on the market (and at the farmer’s market) is top-notch, including some single varietals made just using Pink Lady, Fuji or other apples, depending on your druthers.
Those who love apple cider know it’s wonderfully useful for deglazing pans, amping up doughnuts or pies, and drizzling into soup. If you’re new to the wonders of cider, here are a few tips.
Find a great apple cider you love from a favorite farmstand? Use it to make hard cider. It’s been enjoying a boom of late, so it’s no longer all that cheap, so try a DIY alcoholic version if you have a weekend to spare. It’s a mighty fun project.
Any time you’re searing a savory piece of meat, particularly pork or chicken, consider turning the drippings into gravy. We’d reach for bourbon or cider to deglaze the pan in a pork chop recipe like this one. Run through the recipe ingredients in your head; would they make sense with apples? (When garlic, pork and thyme are the ingredients in question, the answer is usually, “Yes.”)
Since cider is the reduced, delicious essence of apples, it can be absolutely marvelous in baked goods. It’s a key part of this free-form apple tart, in which it mingles with cinnamon and sugar. You can experiment with folding it into other autumnal and wintry baked goods.
Cider is the key to these braised chicken thighs with caramelized apples. Pour it into the pan, post-searing of the bird, and use it to deglaze all the wonderful caramelized bits. Then add the seared thighs back into the mix to mingle with garlic, rosemary, chicken broth and shallots. The whole thing simmers, covered, until the chicken is cooked through. The result is an entrée with an instant sauce that is a delight. (Plus, your home will smell amazing.)
Use cider to rehydrate delicious fruits such as dried currants, cranberries and apricots for more delightful baked apples. It just makes sense that you’d want cider in the mix with all those grand ingredients. Honey, granola and chopped, toasted almonds make these the sort of treat you could even serve for breakfast.
Sometimes you want a soup base that’s a bit more nuanced than simply water or bouillon. Maybe you’ve made your own chicken stock, or you’ve cooked kale stems, an onion and some carrot and water to make an intriguing vegetarian stock. Or maybe, just maybe, you’ve investigating using cider in a savory soup. It works beautifully with cheddar the same way that beer does, and this lovely concoction is no exception. Don’t skip the final flourish of fried shallots.
Maybe there’s a better treat out there than a spiced cider doughnut, but we’re hard-pressed to think of what that might be right this second. This recipe is easier than you’d think, features a full cup of delicious cider along with cinnamon, sugar and nutmeg, and is worth the effort.
Sure, you can spike hot cider with rum or bourbon. (And we recommend it.) But you can also make a marvelous cold cocktail using the stuff you buy by the gallon at the farmer’s market. In this delightful potable, it mingles with Calvados, an apple brandy from Normandy, France, along with brandy, maple syrup and lemon. Garnished with fruit slices and served on the rocks, it’s as satisfying on a porch watching the foliage turn up its volume as it is in a hot tub under the stars.