A bowl of Cortlands waiting to be pied. Our secret ingredient? Apple cider syrup – another American tradition!
There’s this thing you might not know about yet. It’s called apple cider syrup (a.k.a. “boiled cider,” or “apple molasses.”). Once a commonplace way to preserve apple cider and its nutrients throughout the long winter months in hill farms and homesteads across New England and westward, apple cider syrup is currently completing a journey from traditional pantry staple to cultural artifact to commercial commodity.
Food nerds (guilty) can find out more about the rise and fall of apple cider syrup at Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity. The culinarily curious can get a taste of some by visiting Woods Cider Mill online. (They call it “boiled cider,” there.) And the rest of you need only know that you can make your own by (1) pressing apples or buying cider, and (2) boiling it down to about one-seventh of its volume (a.k.a. until it acts like syrup when cooled) either in your kitchen or, for large quantities, your Sapling Evaporator or other backyard maple sugaring equipment.
Apple cider syrup can be poured over pancakes, waffles and ice cream, makes good marinades, sauces and salad dressings, and is added to apple desserts to make them more flavorful. It is also a tasty addition to hot and cold drinks. Where apple cider syrup recipes are concerned, have no fear, the internet provides!
We first learned about apple cider syrup from Audra, a customer of ours. Audra purchased a Sapling Evaporator Pan from us shortly after moving to a homestead that came complete with dozens of ancient apple trees and space in the garage to store her heirloom cider press.
Audra grew up in Weathersfield, Vermont, near the famed Wood’s Cider Mill, and made maple syrup every spring with her family. In addition, there was a family cider press. In fact, all three of her brothers, as well as at least one of their college buddies, went on to found and run apple-related businesses, including Brown Brothers’ Cider (Motto: “we squeeze to please.” No joke!), Cider Co. and Champlain Orchards. (That’s what I call making a living in rural America, people!) So picking, pressing and preserving apples was also a family affair, and Audra was known to can up to twenty gallons of apple cider per year.
“When I saw your Sapling,” says Audra “a light went off in my brain! I knew about the process [of making apple cider syrup] and thought what an awesome way to preserve cider and create a unique local product. Your Sapling is such a perfect size for a small homestead.”
In a good apple year, says Audra, “I hope to work on some of my own creations. I plan to experiment with herbal and berry infusions. We have a growing farm and produce an increasing array of herbs and berries as well as keep bees and harvest honey.”
Maple and apple: two traditional American sweeteners that grow on trees.
As to how Audra enjoys apple cider syrup, “I usually use it as an extra special ingredient,” she says. “So far we have added it to recipes to give them an apple kick. I like to pour it over meat when baking for a unique flavor, [and] it is tasty on ice cream and in salad dressing. [I] [a]dd it to apple pie or crisp, muffins etc. I know I haven’t tried half of the possibilities.”
So, whether you happen to have access to pressed apples and are itching to use your backyard maple sugaring equipment, or care to experiment with a gallon of store-bought cider on the kitchen stove, give apple cider syrup a go this year. You may just find yourself with a new skill and a delicious ingredient for the ages.
Be well! And happy harvesting.