Cooking with Cider

Boiled Cider
While we recommend freezing cider to preserve it for drinking purposes, boiled cider is a great way to preserve cider or concentrate its flavor and sweetness for use in baked goods, candy-making, mixed drinks, and more. When finished, boiled cider can be canned or refrigerated for later use. We use boiled cider as the only sweetener in our apple butter.

How to Make Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

The following recipes are from “Cider, Hard and Sweet” by Ben Watson.

Pork Chops Braised in Hard Cider

Braising pork chops in a liquid like cider ensures that they will be moist and flavorful. This is one of my favorite cider recipes, which I adapted from Judy Gorman’s wonderful cooking primer, The Culinary Craft (Yankee Books, 1984).

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 center-cut pork chops
1 large onion, sliced
1 ½ cups hard cider
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound sauerkraut, undrained (use the good-quality variety availble from the deli or natural food store, or homemade)

Place the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet or Dutch oven. Add the pork chops and cook, turning frequently, until they are lightly browned. Remove the chops to the platter.

Add the onion rings to the pan and toss to coat. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until tender. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon and arrange over the chops. Drain the fat from the pan.Pour the cider into the pan and bring to a boiled over high heat. Return the pork chops and onion slices to the pan and sprinkle the caraway seeds over them. Season with salt and pepper to taste and turn down heat to its lowest setting.

Arrange the sauerkraut over the chops so that the chops are completely covered. Cover the pan and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until the meat is tender. Yield: 4 servings

Chicken Breasts Vallee d’Auge

This classic French recipe is named for one of the great cider-making regions of Normandy, the Pays d’Auge. Not coincidentally, some of the best apple brandy I in the world also comes from the region. The combination of sweet cider and Calvados, finished with thickened crème fraiche, makes this a spectacular dish.

6 tablespoons butter
3 boneless chicken breasts, halved lengthwise and trimmed of fat
2 to 3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup Calvados (apple brandy)
1 cup sweet cider
8 ounces small white mushrooms, wiped clean, trimmed, and sauteed over medium heat in
2 tablespoons butter for about 5 minutes
1 cup crème fraiche, either store-bought or homemade (see following recipe)
Finely chopped parsley (for garnish)

In a large, heavy skillet or Dutch oven, heat the butter and saute the chicken breasts and shallots over medium heat until the chicken is golden brown. Season with salt and pepper.

Warm the Calvados in a small saucepan. Using a long kitchen match, ignite the Calvados and pour it over the chicken. Allow the flame to die, then add the cider and sauteed mushrooms. Reduce the heat under the pan to low and cook the chicken, covered, for 30 minutes, until the meat is tender. Transfer the chicken breasts to a heated platter. Increase the heat under the pan to high and cook to reduce the liquid, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and whisk in the crème fraiche, being careful not to let the sauce boil. Spoon the sauce over the chicken, garnish with the parsley, and serve hot. Yield: 6 servings

Crème Fraiche

A thickened, cultured cream, the slightly sour crème fraiche not only is useful for finishing sauces, as in the recipe above, but also can be whipped and dolloped (or simply poured as is) over fresh fruit and other desserts as a topping. You can find crème fraiche in some specialty food markets, but it’s easy to make at home using sour cream, buttermilk, or yogurt as the culturing agent.

½ cup sour cream (or 1 tablespoon buttermilk or yogurt)
1 cup heavy cream

Blend the ingredients by stirring them with a fork or wire whisk. Pour into a glass jar. Cover the jar and set out at a warm room temperature (around 75 degrees F). Use a thermos bottle rinsed out with either hot or cold water to compensate for a too-cool or too-warm room temperature, respectively.

Check the mixture after about 8 hours. If it has not thickened and begun to have a slightly sour taste, stir it and cover the jar or thermos again for another couple of hours. Continue checking every few hours, until the mixture is thick and tangy.Refrigerate crème fraiche in a covered glass jar and use as needed. It will keep for 7 to 10 days. Yield: 1 to 1 ½ cups, depending on the culturing agent

Fish poached in Cider

This quick recipe takes about 20 minutes to prepare and works well with almost any kind of white-fleshed fish; haddock, halibut, monkfish, snapper, and sole. In Normandy and Brittany, the sauce is traditionally made quite rich, finished with extra butter and crème fraiche, as in the recipe for Chicken Breasts Vallee d’Auge (see above). For the sake of your arteries, and to preserve the delicate flavors of the fish, try the following, somewhat lighter version of this recipe first; you can always make it richer the second time around.

1 ½ to 2 pounds white-fleshed fish (cod, haddock, sole, etc.)
2 to 3 tablespoons butter
½ cup minced shallots or onions
1 cup chopped mushrooms (button mushrooms are fine, but experiemnt with portobello, crimini, or other gourmet types)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup dry sparkling hard cider
¼ cup Calvados (optional)
1 cup crème fraiche (optional)
2 tablespoons butter (optional)

Cut the fish into two or four equal-sized pieces if necessary, so that they fit comfortably into a large frying pan or skillet. Melt the butter in the pan and saute the shallots or onions over medium-low heat until they are translucent. Season the fish with salt and peper and arrange the fish pieces in the skillet. Pour in the cider (and the Calvados, if you’re using it) and turn up the heat to bring the liquid to a simmer. Cover and cook for 8 to 10 minutes.

Transfer the fish pieces to a deep serving dish. Continue heating the cooking liquid in the uncovered pan to reduce it slightly. Check for seasoning. At this point, if you want to make a richer sauce, you can add the optional crème fraiche and butter.

Pour the sauce with the mushrooms over the fish and serve. Garnish if you like with parsley and chopped fresh chives; croutons; oysters, mussels, or crayfish poached in stock or white wine.

Another way to prepare this dish is to preheat the oven to 500 degrees F and rub about half a tablespoon of butter over the bottom of an ovenproof skillet or casserole. Season the fish pieces with salt and pepper and place in the middle of the pan, sprinkling the shallots and mushrooms around the sides. Pour the cider over the fish and bring to a boil on the stove. Then transfer to the oven and cook, covered, for 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness. Remove and sauce with the cooking liquid, or reduce further as described. Yield: 4 servings

Apple Cider Marinade

This is a recipe I picked up for Libby Hillman of Whitingham, Vermont, when I was editing her cookbook, The Best from Libby Hillman’s Kitchen (The Countryman Press, 1993). Libby recommends it for marinating pork spareribs and poultry, to flavor and tenderize the meat before it goes on the grill.

1 cup sweet cider2 tablespoons soy sauce2 tablespoons maple syrup (or boiled cider)
½ teaspoon dried mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Mix together all the ingredients in a bowl that is large enough to accomodate the meat. Marinate the meat for at least 1 hour before barbecuing, or refrigerate over night. Before grilling the meat, be sure to wipe off any excess marinade, since substances like soy sauce will burn readily at the temperature needed for grilling. Yield: 1 ½ cups

Red Cabbage Braised in Cider

Both sweet and hard cider are wonderful for steaming or braising vegetables such as carrots, cauliflower, and many others. This is one of my favorite fall recipes, and a great way to cook red cabbage. Crunchy and slightly sweet, it makes a nice side dish for most meats, but as a former vegetarian I also like serving it alongside a grain-based dish like kasha varanitchkes.

4 tablespoons butter
1 medium head red cabbage, cored and shredded finely
1 ½ cups sweet cider
1 teaspoon sugarPinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet or Dutch oven. Add the cabbage and toss it with a slotted spoon to coat. Increase the heat to high and keep tossing until the cabbage starts to wilt. Pour the cider into the pan, then mix in the sugar, salt, and pepper. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to its lowest setting. Cook until the cabbage is tender but still crunchy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cabbage to a heated serving bowl. Increase the heat under the pan and cook the cider liquid until it has thickened slightly into a sauce. Pour over the cabbage and serve warm. Yield: 4 servings