We look forward to it all year — the sweet tang of apple cider from local orchards.
Cider is satisfying cold, straight from the jug. It's comforting hot, laced with cinnamon, sipped from a mug. And it's kid-friendly when combined with yogurt in a smoothie.
But don't stop there. A little experimenting led us to six more ways to enjoy this autumnal specialty.
Cheese and apples have long been a natural pairing. Could they be combined?
Yes. I added the crisp, fruity notes of cider to the mellow, aged flavors of cheese to create a fall fondue.
Just bring cider to a simmer, slowly add shredded cheeses, and finish with a splash of vinegar and swirl of brandy.
Integrated, yet distinct flavors compete for attention with each dip into the fondue pot.
1 cup cider
4 cups grated cheese*
1-1/2 Tbls cornstarch
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbls apple schnapps or apple brandy
Put grated cheese and cornstarch in bowl. Toss to coat cheese. Bring cider to a simmer over medium heat. Add cheese a handful at a time, stirring until melted between additions. Continue cooking until fondue just starts to bubble, 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add vinegar and stir. Take fondue off heat and stir in brandy.
Pour into fondue pot and keep warm. Serve with cooked slices of kielbasa or other spicy sausage, bread cubes or crostini, broccoli florets or slices of tart apple.
*Most recipes call for Gruyere, but $18 a pound seemed a little steep. We substituted half Swiss and half sharp cheddar.
— Adapted from a recipe at www.bonappetit.com
This one rates a rave.
Cider syrup is a luscious drizzle for both sweet and savory dishes. It is equally at home drizzled on pancakes or over roasted pork.
It's so easy, you can make a batch on a weeknight to dress up baked acorn squash, then used the leftovers the next morning on your oatmeal.
Don't be tempted to omit the lemon juice. Without its contrasting tartness, the syrup has a cloying single-note sweetness.
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
2/3 cup apple cider or juice
1 cinnamon stick (1-1/2 inches)
Dash ground nutmeg
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbls butter
In a small saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch and cider until smooth. Add cinnamon stick, then bring to a boil, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes. Mixture will thicken. Remove from heat and stir in nutmeg and butter until smooth.
Substitute cider for water when boiling hot dogs, brats or other sausages. Sounds crazy, but it infuses a subtle extra layer of flavor. Not as sweet as you'd expect, and not fruity either. The whole is greater — and different — than its parts.
Most cranberry sauce and relish recipes call for an appalling amount of sugar. You can reduce that amount if you substitute apple cider for the water.
1 cup cider
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar
12-ounce package fresh cranberries
Simmer all ingredients in a sauce pan until cranberries pop open, stirring frequently.
Optional add-ins include cinnamon, chopped crystallized ginger, chopped fresh apple or orange zest.
Starting with a boxed mix calms the fears of the most novice of bakers. But with a little "doctoring," nobody will ever suspect that this apple coffeecake wasn't made from scratch.
You can turn a boxed cinnamon quick bread into a fall favorite with two easy additions. For the batter, follow package directions but substitute cider for the water.
I tried this idea while experimenting with cider for other recipes, but thought the result still needed a boost of apple flavor. So, when the package directions said to pour half the batter in a pan and sprinkle on cinnamon sugar, I added a layer of finely chopped apple, poured the rest of the batter on top, as directed, and success! The apple added moisture and a needed tartness to the sweet filling.
Perfect for brunch or even dessert.
3 Tbls oil
3/4 cup cider
1 box cinnamon quick bread
3/4 cup cider
1 medium-sized tart apple, peeled and finely chopped
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease or spray a loaf pan.
Put eggs in large bowl, whisk until blended. Add oil and cider, beat again. Add cake mix and stir until most lumps are gone.
Pour about half the batter into the greased pan. Sprinkle on about 2/3 of the cinnamon sugar provided with the mix. Add the chopped apple in an even layer. Pour the rest of the batter on top, carefully smoothing with a spoon to cover the filling. Sprinkle the rest of the cinnamon topping on top.
Bake for about 45 minutes. Baking times will vary depending on the type of pan you use. To test, stick a knife in the top. If it comes out clean, it's done.
Variation: Add 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg or 1/2 teaspoon cardamom to the batter.
Cider serves as the anchor for a sweet, buttery martini, served in a glass rimmed with cinnamon sugar.
The proportions of the three ingredients — cider, vodka and butterscotch schnapps — can be altered to suit individual tastes. Although some recipes call for equal parts, I found the schnapps tended to dominate. My favorite variation used 4 parts cider to 2 parts vodka to 1 part schnapps.
Put the three liquids in a shaker or large glass of ice, shake or stir and strain into the martini glass.