I was introduced to apple cider syrup at the Queener Fruit Farm in Scio, Oregon in 2012. Owners Tommie and Peter van de Kamp lovingly tend some of the finest apples, pears, peaches and berries in the Willamette Valley. Their fruits and fruit products are prized by some of the valley’s finest chefs. Some chefs even proudly print “from the Queener Fruit Farm” on their menu. Tommie’s homemade apple cider vinegar and boiled apple cider syrup are equally prized as supporting ingredients in many of the chefs’ creations.
Apple cider was once the beverage of choice in colonial America. Upon arrival at our shores, the early settlers found only bitter, inedible crab apples so they requested seeds from England to cultivate their orchards. They later sourced grafting wood for producing proper cider apples, and cider production was underway.
Cider’s popularity took a serious hit when the Germans arrived with their brewing skills, and it wasn’t long before beer toppled cider from its number one status. Then along came prohibition, leaving Americans in the U.S. with tea, soda pop and bathtub gin. Sad, grim times they were.
Although beer and distilled spirits bounced back after the U.S. came to its senses, hard cider never did. Non-alcoholic cider came into existence and you can find it next to all the fruit juices in supermarkets. Lately, though, hard cider production in America is enjoying a renaissance, with artisans popping up wherever apple orchards are nearby.
Boiling fresh pressed cider into a thick syrup, much like the sap from maple trees, was common in colonial New England. Hardly a pantry was without this sweet-tart ingredient used for sweetening and flavoring dishes from baked beans to pies and fruit cakes.
Sadly, making boiled cider is no longer the tradition it once was. However, you can purchase it from various mail order sources like King Arthur Flour and Woods Cider Mill in Springfield, Vermont. If you live in the Willamette Valley, you can call Tommie or Peter and purchase some from the Queener Fruit Farm.
If you don’t want to wait for the postman to bring it to your door, you can have about 2½ cups of this golden-brown, syrupy essence of apple after a few hours of lazy, intermittent stirring. Making your own boiled cider syrup is also a wonderful way to share your love at any gift-giving time.
Boiled Cider Syrup
Enjoy the syrup drizzled over pancakes, waffles or corn bread. Use some to sweeten mashed yams or sweet potatoes. Brush winter squash or carrots with it as a glaze. Try it in vinaigrettes and as a sweetener in barbecue sauce. Drizzle some in a mayonnaise-based dressing for a knockout Waldorf salad. And it pairs ever so nicely with vanilla ice cream.
All you need is 1 gallon of preservative-free cider of your choice, a heavy pot or Dutch oven (Le Creuset is great), and a spoon for the occasional stir. I used a cider pressed from local, organic Gravensteins.
Makes about 2½ cups.
- Pour 2½ cups of cider into your pan and note the depth. You can mark the handle of your stirring spoon for checking the amount as it nears completion. I used a stainless steel ruler and noted that 2½ cups measured a depth of ½ inch.
- Pour the remaining cider into your pan and bring to a boil.
- Lower the heat to a healthy simmer, stirring occasionally.
- This process could take up to 4 hours or longer.
- Check on it periodically and give it a stir.
- As the cider thickens and most of the water has evaporated, you should stir more frequently, about the final 30 minutes.
- When it’s ready, it coats the spoon much like maple syrup would and should also be at your measured depth.
- Cool the boiled cider and pour into sterilized container(s).
- It should keep almost indefinitely refrigerated, but I can assure you it won’t last long.
New England Boiled Cider Baked Beans
- 1 pound navy beans
- ½ pound bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 4 tablespoons boiled cider syrup
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon dry mustard
- ½ cup ketchup
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ cup golden brown sugar, packed
- 2 bay leaves
- Soak picked-over beans in cold water overnight.
- Simmer the soaked beans in the same water 1-2 hours until tender.
- Drain beans and set cooking liquid aside.
- Preheat oven to 325º F.
- Place a layer of bacon in the bottom of a bean pot or deep casserole dish.
- Add a layer of onion, topping off with some of the beans.
- Continue layering bacon, onions and beans.
- Put the remaining ingredients into a small saucepan.
- Heat to a boil over medium-high heat and stir to mix thoroughly.
- Pour over beans and add enough of the reserved bean liquid to barely cover the beans.
- Cover and bake in the oven for 3-4 hours, checking about half way and adding more liquid if necessary.