Mention apple cider and it conjures up images of curling up by the fireplace on a cold autumn evening, joining friends for holiday parties, or taking a trip to the local cider mill. Apple cider isn’t just another seasonal beverage, but to many families is a treasured tradition.
What is Apple Cider?
In many parts of the world, “cider” indicates a fermented beverage, but in the U.S. and most of Canada, cider normally refers to an unfermented, unfiltered, sometimes unpasteurized form of apple juice. Unlike clear, sweet apple juice, apple cider is cloudy and more tart. Mulled cider is hot apple cider mixed with orange peel and spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
How is Apple Cider Made?
Cider mills are popular destinations for agritourists seeking out the season’s freshest apple cider, cider doughnuts (yes, the batter contains cider), and apples fresh from the orchard. Apple cider is typically made from a blend of different types of apples to give the beverage a more balanced flavor of sweet and tart. Apples are first ground into pulp, then pressed to extract the juice. The juice quickly oxidizes, giving the cider its deep amber color. Apple cider is made in the cooler months because hot weather hastens fermentation.
Cooking With Apple Cider
Apple cider is a popular beverage, but is also great for cooking. Try using apple cider to moisten stuffing for turkey or chicken or to baste baked apples. It can also be boiled into a syrupy glaze for cakes. Here are some recipe ideas to get you started!
Hot Buttered Apple Cider
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 gallon apple cider
Beat brown sugar, butter, honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg until well blended and fluffy. Heat apple cider in saucepan over medium heat until hot. Fill individual mugs with hot apple cider, stirring in 1 tablespoon butter mixture. Serve with cinnamon sticks for stirring. (Butter mixture can be stored in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Bring to room temperature before serving.) Makes approximately 12 servings.
Apple Cider Vinaigrette
1 cup apple cider
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Olive oil to taste (optional)
Mix all ingredients; cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. Serve with your favorite salad greens. Makes 1 1/2 cups.
Roast Chicken with Apple Stuffing and Cider Sauce
3 1/2 to 4 pounds whole roasting chicken
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 apple, peeled, cored, and finely diced
1 onion, half diced and half whole
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/4 cup apple cider
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup apple cider
1/2 cup fat-free chicken broth
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
To make stuffing, melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Place apple pieces in skillet and sauté. Add diced onions and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in tarragon, breadcrumbs, apple cider, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
Loosen skin on breasts and thighs of chicken by sliding fingers under skin. Push stuffing under skin, distributing evenly. Tie legs with a six-inch piece of twine. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon black pepper on inside and outside of chicken. Place onion half inside cavity of the chicken. Place chicken in roasting pan; bake for 1 hour at 400 degrees.
To make sauce, transfer chicken from roasting pan onto cutting board. Scrape bits from bottom of pan, then pour pan drippings into saucepan. Whisk in flour; warm over medium heat. Gradually whisk in apple cider and chicken broth. Bring to simmer; cook over very low heat for 3 minutes. Stir in tarragon and apple cider vinegar.
Carve chicken and arrange on serving plate. Sauce may be served on the side for individual glazing. Makes 4 servings.
Apple Bread Pudding
2 1/2 cups whole-wheat bread cubes
1/2 cup apple, peeled, cored, and diced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 1/2 cups apple cider
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Mix bread, apple, and butter in bowl. In separate bowl, whisk eggs, honey, cider, vanilla, and cinnamon; pour over bread mixture. Let stand for 1 hour. Pour pudding into baking dish. Bake at 325 degrees for about 45 minutes or until pudding is firm. Serve warm with ice cream. Makes 4 to 6 servings.