Apple cider is one of those beverages that I associate with great smells – the wonderful aroma of fallen leaves, the sweet smell of apples in bags or baskets, cinnamon and nutmeg cooking in the kitchen, and a warm pot of mulled cider on the stove.
I tried to answer the question of the difference between apple juice and apple cider, but ended up just as confused after doing lots of Internet research. I think the general thought is that cider is the natural, unfiltered juice from apples, whereas apple juice is filtered so it is clear, pasteurized, and sometimes frozen. But don’t quote me as an expert on this because many states, manufacturers and marketers seem to have different ideas on what is apple cider and what is apple juice!
Anyway, for my purposes I am calling anything in a big jug that has cloudy juice in it apple cider. I recently found a great treat in one of our local grocery stores – they sell jugs of honey crisp apple cider, which you may recall from an earlier column of mine, are my favorite type of apples. My mother the non-snob of apple types, was happy for me to have found honey crisp cider, but commented that it seemed a waste of those good apples!
I totally disagree, and have been happily enjoying the honey crisp cider in many forms.
So the best way to enjoy cider, in my opinion, is cold and in an 8 ounce glass. I also like cider warm served in one of those glass mugs, maybe with a cinnamon stick in it and a dollop of whipped cream from a spray can.
But I felt I needed to go a bit further with my simple but purist cider use, so I tried some recipes with cider as an ingredient and came up with several cider recipes that are “home runs” in my book.
I hope you enjoy them as well.
Cider-Braised Chicken Thighs with Sweet Potatoes and Sage
1 1/2 pound(s) boneless, skinless chicken thigh(s), about 6 thighs
1 1/2 tsp salt, divided
1/8 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1 Tbsp canola oil
8 medium green onions, thickly sliced
1 large garlic clove(s), minced
2 cup(s) reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup(s) apple cider
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp fresh sage, minced, divided (or use tsp rubbed sage)
1 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 pound(s) sweet potato(es), peeled, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
Season both sides of chicken with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Brown chicken in batches, flipping once, about 2 minutes per side; set aside.
Reduce heat to medium and add shallots and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to pan; cook shallots, stirring frequently, until softened and beginning to brown, approximately 5 to 8 minutes. Add garlic to pan; cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute.
In a small bowl, combine broth, cider, vinegar, 1 teaspoon sage and thyme sprigs; add to pan and scrape down sides of pan to loosen any brown bits. Increase heat to high; bring to a boil and cook until mixture reduces slightly and flavors blend, about 5 minutes.
Add chicken and potatoes to pan; stir to combine and reduce heat to low. Cover pan and simmer, flipping over chicken and stirring potatoes halfway through cooking, about 30 minutes.
Serving size is 1 ½ chicken thigh and about 3/4 cup sweet potato per serving
Note: save any extra cooking sauce for a future soup!
Pork Roast with Cider Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 1/2 pounds boneless, top loin pork roast, trimmed of excess fat
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup apple cider
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup apple cider
1/2 cup water
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a large ovenproof skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Season the roast with salt and pepper. Add the roast and sear on all sides.
Meanwhile, in a glass measure, combine the apple cider, cider vinegar, molasses, water and Worcestershire sauce. When the roast is seared, add the cider mixture to the skillet. (If not using an ovenproof skillet, transfer to a shallow roasting pan.) Roast about 1.5 hours or until an internal temperature of 160degrees is reached, basting occasionally with the pan juices.
Remove from the oven and place roast on a serving platter. Cover with foil and let rest 10 minutes before slicing.
Meanwhile, combine all of the sauce ingredients and mix until smooth. Place the skillet with the pan juices (or the roasting pan) over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom. Reduce the heat and whisk in the sauce. Continue cooking until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
To serve, slice the roast and drizzle with the sauce.
Hot Mulled Cider Sangria
1 gallon apple cider
1 750ml bottle dry red wine
2 cups orange juice
¼ cup lemon juice
7 -8 cinnamon sticks
1 T ground cloves
1 cup rum or brandy (optional)
3 -4 red apples
In a large soup pot, combine apple cider, dry red wine, orange juice, lemon juice, cinnamon sticks, ground cloves, and either 1 cup of rum or brandy, if desired.
Cook the mixture over a low flame until just simmering.
While the mixture is being heated, core and slice 3-4 of your favorite red apples, and add to the pot once the mixture has just begun to simmer. Turn off the heat and serve.