If fall has a flavor, it’s definitely apple cider. We love everything about this drink: its smell, its taste, and all the childhood memories it evokes.
But did you know you can use cider for more than a cozy refreshment to keep you warm by the fire? It’s true, and we have five fun ways to experiment with this drink you thought was so familiar!
But first, a quick primer on cider in the U.S.: The word “cider” is not regulated and can refer to a broad range of products: unfiltered, unprocessed apple juice; apple juice from freshly picked apples; or simply another name for apple juice. “Hard cider” refers to fermented, alcoholic cider (which the rest of world simply calls “cider”). It’s good to know these distinctions before you attempt to make a cider drink for kids or a cocktail for adults — neither group would appreciate a mix-up.
Now that you know what cider is, let’s talk about some of the ways you can use it in the kitchen:
1. As a liquid for braising meats.
The sweet, comforting taste of apple cider is completely at home in the kitchen as a braising liquid for meats like beef brisket or pork shoulder. Toss in some root vegetables like parsnips, carrots, and potatoes, and let the braised meat slow cook in a clay pot or ovenproof Dutch oven. You’ll taste the unmistakeable flavor of fall in this fork-tender meat — comfort food doesn’t get much better!
2. As an added ingredient in fall soups.
Happen to have some extra cider on hand? Add it to a fall soup for a depth charge of autumnal flavor. Apple cider is completely at home in a savory bowl of butternut squash soup with a little fresh sage. You can also use it in onion, cauliflower, and potato soups. While you can taste test your way to perfection, as a general rule of thumb, you can substitute one cup of cider for an equal amount of stock or broth.
AVO TIP: Nothing goes better with soup than a sandwich! Watch this video to see how Chef Pati Jinich creates the ultimate avocado sandwich. It’s a perfect fall crowd-pleaser!
3. As a syrup and sweetener with multiple uses.
Cider syrup is simple to make and has lots of uses in the kitchen. Take one cup of apple cider and heat it in a small pot until most of the liquid has evaporated, leaving a thick, sticky syrup. Think of it as a sweetener. Drizzle this syrup over ice cream for dessert or over pancakes and waffles at breakfast and brunch.
You can also use cider syrup as a glaze for meats like pork or turkey, or roasted vegetables like carrots and onion. Splash a little in a salad dressing made of 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, add salt and pepper to taste, and you have the perfect topping for a big spinach salad (puree half an avocado with it for a creamier dressing).
4. As the featured ingredient in a sorbet.
Mix a cup of apple cider with one cup of simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, heated until the sugar dissolves), some ground cinnamon, and a few squirts of lemon juice to brighten the flavor. Chill until cold, then churn in an ice cream machine until it is frozen. No ice cream machine? No problem! Use the same recipe to make a granita-style sweet by pouring the mix into a pan, freezing for an hour, and then scraping the pan with a fork. Repeat this process until all the mix has been scraped into an icy slush, which should take a few hours.
5. As the secret ingredient in a cocktail.
Remember the cider syrup you made? That bit you’ve got left is begging to be combined with some bourbon, ginger beer, and a splash of lemon juice for a sophisticated fall cocktail. Have a teetotaler who won’t tipple? Just leave out the bourbon for an alcohol-free version.
Speaking of drinks, fall is the perfect time for a seasonal twist on sangria: apple cider sangria. Take two cups of apple cider and mix with one bottle of white wine, some ginger ale, and slices of different types of apples, oranges, and lemons.
And don’t forget hard cider, cider’s fun, slightly boozier cousin. Try mixing it with ginger beer (alcoholic or non), and a little cranberry juice for a tart, spicy, sweet, and refreshing drink.