A cup of apple cider is a delicious part of the fabric of fall.
But don't stop at sipping. Versatile apple cider can be used in recipes sweet and savory. And cider makers not only have the goods on making it, but on cooking with it, too.
When customers buy apples for applesauce at Westview Orchards and Adventure Farm in Washington Township, Mich., Katrina Schumacher advises them to cook down the apples in cider instead of water. "It's a way to get more flavor into the applesauce and use less sugar."
Schumacher, a sixth generation co-owner of the farm, says cider also is great blended into smoothies with other fruits or used for slushes and frozen treats on sticks.
But marinating is one of the most popular uses of cider other than drinking, the cider makers say.
Richard Koziski of Dexter Cider Mill says cider makes an excellent tenderizer in marinades. "Cider will make any meat tender," he said. "It's a great tenderizer for venison, as it really breaks down the gaminess of it."
Nancy Steinhauer, Koziski's daughter and owner of the mill, cooks ribs directly in cider, a recipe from her sister Julie Black. "They just cook in the cider, which breaks them down nicely and tenderizes them," Steinhauer said.
She also cooks steel-cut oatmeal in a slow-cooker with apple cider. "I like that you can make it ahead, love the apple flavor, and it's easy."
You can also boil cider down to intensify the flavor and thicken. Brush the sweet glaze on pork loin or tenderloin, poultry and vegetables, or serve it as a syrup.
Here are several more ways to cook with apple cider:
Brines and marinades: For a basic brine, mix 1½ gallons water and ½ gallon cider along with 2 cups kosher salt. Brine chicken, turkey and pork. Use apple cider as a marinade ingredient in place of soy sauce, citrus juices and liquids other than oil.
Roasting meat and vegetables: Cook just about any vegetable in apple cider before roasting. As for meat, Schumacher cooks and bastes a bone-in ham with cider.
To make Julie Black's ribs: Season 2 pounds of any kind of ribs with garlic salt and black pepper. Place in a baking dish and pour 2 cups apple cider over (enough to come halfway up in the pan). Cover and roast at 325 degrees for 2 to 2½ hours or until tender. Uncover, brush with barbecue sauce and roast 15 minutes more.
Cider scalloped potatoes
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
This recipe is adapted from Cooking Light magazine, October 1998.
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup 1 percent low-fat milk
1 cup fresh apple cider
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded smoked Gouda cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) reduced-fat baby Swiss cheese
3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Sprinkle in the flour. Gradually whisk in the milk until blended. Stir in the cider, chicken broth, salt, pepper and nutmeg; bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat. Combine the cheeses in a small bowl. Arrange half of the potato slices in a shallow casserole dish or 11-by-7-inch dish and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the cheese mixture. Arrange remaining potato slices on top. Pour the cider mixture over the potatoes and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and press the potatoes with a spatula. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese mixture and bake an additional 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Remove from the oven and let stand 15 minutes before serving. Cut into individual stacks or use a biscuit cutter to cut into circles.
Per Serving: 168 calories (15 percent from fat), 3 grams fat (2 grams saturated fat), 30 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams protein, 202 mg sodium, 11 mg cholesterol, 2 grams fiber.
Chicken thighs with apples and cider sauce
Serves: 4 (2 thighs each)
Preparation time: 10 minutes (plus brining time)
Total time: 1 hour
This recipe is from Susan M. Selasky of the Free Press. She says you also can use boneless, skinless chicken thighs in this recipe. They will take less time to cook.
8 chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
4 cups apple cider
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 small apples, peeled, cored and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 cup apple cider
1/2 cup half-and-half mixed with 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the chicken thighs in a plastic sealable bag. Mix together 4 cups apple cider and salt until it dissolves; add the pepper. Pour cider mixture over chicken thighs, making sure the cider covers the thighs. Seal bag and set in another dish. Refrigerate at least three hours. When ready to cook, remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry. Season thighs all over with all- purpose seasoning. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large skillet, heat the canola oil over medium heat. Working in batches if needed, place chicken thighs, skin side down, in the skillet and cook until browned, about six to eight minutes. Remove and place, skin side up, on a rimmed baking sheet. Place in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until chicken is cooked.
Meanwhile, pour off the fat in the skillet or wipe it out. Add the butter and melt. Add the apple slices and sauté until they just start to caramelize. Remove apples to a plate. Add the apple cider to the skillet and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet. Reduce heat to low and slowly whisk in the half-and-half mixed with cornstarch. Continue heating, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens just enough to coat the back of a spoon. Season sauce, if desired, with salt and pepper. Serve the two chicken pieces with apples and a few tablespoons of sauce.
Per Serving: 366 calories (50 percent from fat), 20 grams fat (7 grams saturated fat), 27 grams carbohydrates, 20 grams protein, 667 mg sodium, 88 mg cholesterol, 2 grams fiber.
Cider-glazed root vegetables
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
This recipe was adapted from www.epicurious.com.
2 cups apple cider
4 large carrots, peeled, cut into 1 1/2-by- 1/4-inch sticks
3 large parsnips, peeled, cut into 1 1/2-by- 1/4-inch sticks
2 medium onions, peeled, quartered, then cut each quarter in half across the center
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Place the cider in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 15 minutes or until reduced by about half.
Meanwhile, prepare all the vegetables and place them in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil and toss to coat. Drizzle cider over vegetables. Scatter butter pieces over the top and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Cover tightly with foil and bake until vegetables are almost crisp-tender, about 25 minutes. Remove foil and stir vegetables to coat with the pan juices. Bake uncovered about 15 minutes or until vegetables brown and some of the juices evaporate.
Transfer mixture to a serving bowl along with accumulated juices. Sprinkle with thyme leaves and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Per Serving: 167 calories (26 percent from fat), 5 grams fat (2 grams saturated fat), 30 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 276 mg sodium, 8 mg cholesterol, 5 grams fiber.