Wednesday, October 28, 2009

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Boiled Cider, an Old New England Syrup

There is nothing especially technical about serving cider
if you bought it at the right place

and kept it cold long enough
for it to harden a little.


~ Louise Andrews Kent
Mrs. Appleyard’s Kitchen (1942)

Once the temperature dips, my thoughts turn to hearty meals. For the last fifteen years or so, that also means cider: sweet, hard, mulled, or boiled. If it's apple squeezin’s, I'm in. I’m not talking about distilling hard cider (though that has its own appeal and I particularly like Mrs. Appleyard’s commonsense approach to such things), but simply pouring fresh apple cider in a broad pot, turning on the heat, and letting it boil down until it becomes a sweet syrup.

There. That’s more or less the recipe.

Although lately I’ve been livening up cocktails with the stuff, it’s versatile syrup that’s put to good use in both sweet and savory dishes such as pies, baked beans, fools, wild rice pilafs, and pork roasts—even gingerbread. Bacon, oranges, and mustard are especially nice complements (see below for a boiled cider pie recipe).

For cocktails, I find that boiled cider goes particularly well with applejack, Calvados, brandy, and rum. I’m not in any particular rush to try it with gin, but let me know what you think if you give it a shot.

In more detail, here’s how to do it. Make it enough times and you’ll get to understand when to take it off the fire just by its smell, dark color, and thick consistency. Until then, cheat: Once the cider is in the pot, but before it comes to a boil, insert a cake tester, wooden BBQ skewer, or wooden chopstick straight down into it. This is your dipstick.

Mark the depth of the cider on the wood. Then mark half of that. Then mark half again. Then mark half of the last mark—this should be 1/8th the original height. Cook until the level is almost down to the last mark. You’re looking for about a 7:1 reduction. A little more or a little less isn’t going to hurt.

Boiled Cider

1 gallon/4 liters of fresh sweet cider

Pour the cider into a broad and deep heavy-bottomed pan (I use a large enameled Le Creuset Dutch oven). Turn heat to high.

Boil the cider, uncovered, until volume is reduced to just under 400ml (about half a whiskey bottle’s worth).

Let cool and bottle. I tend neither to filter or to refrigerate the syrup, but do as you please. In any event, keep it in a cool, dark place.

Right. That pie I mentioned.

Richard Sax’s Classic Home Desserts is my go-to dessert book. If I could only keep one dessert book out the whole library, this would be it. This, in fact, was the book that introduced me to boiled cider. Here’s an adaptation of his recipe. If you don’t have his book but enjoy cooking desserts, go get a copy.
New England Boiled Cider Pie
Adapted from Richard Sax (1994) Classic Home Desserts

1 unbaked pie crust
2/3 cup boiled cider
2 Tbl sugar, or to taste
2 Tbl plus 1 tsp unsalted butter, melted
2 Tbl fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt
2 large eggs, well beaten
2 tart apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored and coarsely grated
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/8 tsp fresh-grated nutmeg
Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for serving

Roll out pie dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8” thick and place into a buttered pie pan. Trim all but ¾” around pie, then turn edge under and make a fluted border, then chill in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 375°F/190°C.

In a bowl, whisk together the boiled cider, sugar, melted butter, lemon juice, salt and eggs. Add the grated apples and stir to blend well. Pour the filling into the prepared pie crust, sprinkle with brown sugar and nutmeg and bake until the center is just set, about 50 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack and serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Goes well with:

Willis and Tina Wood’s family has been making their boiled cider since 1882. If you don’t feel like making your own, give them a jingle.

Wood’s Cider Mill
1482 Weathersfield Center Road
Springfield, VT 05156
P: 802.263.5547
Fax: 802.263.9674

email: orders@woodscidermill.com

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11 comments:

Spirits Review said...

Actually we have a place near here that calls it Apple Cider Molasses and has a bunch of (food) recipes:
https://www.allenshillfarm.com/catalog/index.php?osCsid=4483a29f544b6674b4646e2da51ef28b

erik_flannestad said...

I've found a few recipes for similar. Kinda looks like Dutch origin? An ingredient from Harry Johnson and others that has puzzled some of us is "Orchard Syrup". Think this was what they were talking about?

Matthew Rowley said...

Chris ~

Thanks for the link. I love this stuff: I've almost always used it with foods (pork, especially) rather than drink, but I was playing with it in an applejack and Averna mix a few nights ago that shows promise.

Erik ~ I've wondered that. Certainly the stuff goes by alternate names. Although if its origins were Dutch, we might expect to see the same name around as we doth with other Dutch food words (cookie, cole slaw, etc). What makes you think Dutch specifically?

"Orchard Syrup"suggested to me a mix of apple and pear flavors, but I've got nothing to base that on: just a hunch. Know what trumps musing? Experimentation. If you're up for it, I'd say boil down some cider, use it in a drink that calls for "Orchard Syrup"and see if it's a balanced drink. Not conclusive at all, but could suggest whether you're headed down the right track.

Oh. Right. I've got boiled cider. I've got old cocktail books, including Johnson. I'll look into this, too.

seth k. from the finger lakes said...

per your instructions, my wife and i boiled down a gallon of unpasteurized cider the other night.

the finished product is a delight.

we plan to enjoy as part of a slow roasted pork loin dish this weekend.

that along with some experimentation in drinks as you suggest.

thanks matt!

Matthew Rowley said...

Seth ~

Yeah, isn't it good stuff? Not ten minutes ago, I put a 9-pound ham in the oven. In about an hour and half, I'm going to take it out, glaze it in a mix of boiled cider, orgeat, brown sugar, Angostura bitters, and Dijon mustard, then roast it for another 20 minutes or so.

On the side? Some roasted acorn squash and spinach sauteed with a little garlic confit and a splash of oil from the confit.

I plan to head to bed wearing a smile.

Alice Rowley said...

Hey there. Up here in Canada we get it in the heart of Mennonite country from apple processors. They make unsweetened apple butter, cider & the syrup. They call it apple syrup but it's just the cider boiled down. So that would be of German origin. Anyway I love this stuff & keep looking for recipes that use this instead of sugar. I buy dried apples too & use some of the syrup to reconstitute the dried apples then use them to make an apple crisp...yummy.
Alice Rowley...ya...same last name...lol

Matthew Rowley said...

Alice ~

That apple crisp sounds great. Care to share the recipe? Although we have Springlike weather here most of the year, May and June are typically overcast (hence the names "May Grey" and June Gloom"). This year, however, July is overcast, chilly, and even drizzly some mornings. Perfect apple crisp weather. I'll use our boiled cider/apple syrup sometimes to reconstitute dried apples, then make little handpies with a splash of rosewater and palm sugar as additional sweetener. Tasty stuff.

The Menonites back in Kansas also used to make a watermelon syrup the same way: juice a melon and boil it down as a sweetener. I've done it a few times, but as much as the other produce is fantastic here in California, the watermelons are lackluster.

BTW ~ any chance your family's from County Mayo? Our Rowleys came through Philadelphia and metastasized all over North America, but are as far away as New Zealand and the Philippines.

Alice Rowley said...

My recipe for Apple Crisp using dehydrated apples...but I never follow a recipe exactly:
4 cups dried apples simmered for about 20-30 min in 6 -8 cups water & 1/2 c cider syrup + 1 tsp cinnamon. Add more water if needed or drain some off if too wet.
Place apples in a buttered 9 x 13 pan. Top with your favourite crisp topping & bake @ 400 'F for about 35-45 min. I serve it warm topped with some ice cream & a drizzle of cider syrup....so yummy

I married a Rowley & apparently their family came direct to Canada from England where the family is originally from. But we have met Rowleys from all over...even the Caribbean.
There was a huge Rowley gathering in Ontario near Barrie many years ago but we were not able to attend. It would have been fantastic.

Alice Rowley said...

The amount of water with the dehydrated apples really depends on the size of the apple pieces & how dry they are. I start with about 6 cups water & add a little more as needed.

Lissa said...

Do you have any idea how long this will keep, refrigerated? I plan on making my own once I get my hands on some freshly pressed cider from a local orchard, but I'm not sure if it's worth making a whole pint (which is roughly what a gallon makes) if it won't keep.

Matthew Rowley said...

Lissa ~ Sorry for the delay; I've been under the weather lately and not on top of emails and blog comments. I'd say go ahead and make it. The stuff lasts for ages. It may separate, but just shake it before using it. Some people process it as if they were canning jellies or marmalades so they can keep it at room temperature, but I've found that just storing it in a bottle in the the refrigerator is sufficient.