Buckets and baskets are full of apples out in the barn awaiting grinding and pressing sometime soon for homegrown apple cider. It is a good apple year, at least here where I live, and my neighbor Terry and I have been out scavenging apples, before the deer get to them.
There is always enough to freeze, and lots to drink. I let some get fizzy, which it will do if it isn’t pasteurized, and I enjoy the natural carbonation very much. If you like carbonation, and your cider doesn’t ferment, you can add soda water to taste.
I drink my cider both hot and cold, plain and with additions. Ginger and apples go very well together so my favorite add-in is ginger brandy which you can find at better-stocked liquor stores and rarely at supermarkets. Another is allspice dram: allspice-infused white rum with simple syrup added, for which I gave the recipe here a couple years ago.
It turns out, though, that cider is useful in many other ways including salad dressing, braising liquid for meat, reduced as a glaze for vegetables and baked goods, and as an ingredient in desserts, sorbets and even cookies. If you have a great quantity of cider, you can boil it down like one boils maple sap for syrup, to make what the old timers called cider molasses. The product can be used virtually interchangeably with standard sugar molasses to make gingerbread or molasses cookies. It’s fun to make and very simple: merely simmer at a steady low heat until water evaporates away and the result has the same viscosity as molasses.
Slightly reduced cider is a great addition to roasted squash and roasted Brussels sprouts, just drizzled over the vegetables when they are about half roasted, then returned to the oven to finish. The next time I bake an acorn squash, I’ll use butter with cider instead of maple syrup in the hollow.
For cider vinaigrette, use a cup of cider, about a teaspoon of mustard and a tablespoon each of red wine vinegar and olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste shaken together. Adjust to taste by adding more vinegar, if you wish a little more bite because cider can be very sweet.
Cider added to a pot roast for long, slow cooking is wonderful. Add the same amount of cider as you would water or broth after you have browned your roast. Proceed as you normally do for pot roast. Cider, about a cup or a cup and a half, plus garlic and onion added to a pork shoulder in a slow cooker makes a good pulled pork dish.
This fall, I experimented with a kind of cider cocktail that calls for cider with ginger beer, rum and a bit of whiskey added. It’s really delightful. The recipe follows. While the inspiration for the cocktail called for a higher proportion of ginger beer to cider, I switched it around. If you like cinnamon, you could use of one the many cinnamon-infused vodkas, rums or whiskeys available.
4 ounces sweet apple cider
1 ounce dark rum
½ ounce whiskey
1. Put a couple of ice cubes in a glass, and add the cider, rum and whiskey.
2. Give it a quick stir to blend, then top the glass off with ginger beer.