Preserved: Boiled Cider Syrup
It's bittersweet when we move firmly into autumn, once and for all saying goodbye to the stone fruits and melons for another year. The cool weather is a relief, though, and a bracing, sweet yet tart glass of apple cider is a true pleasure once we've let summer go. Long ago, orchard-rich New Englanders figured out a way to preserve the autumn lure of apple cider by reducing it into a syrup, as dark as maple and just as appealing.
It's called boiled cider and the recipe for making your own is about as simple as the name. It's a classic reduction, an ideal way to concentrate the sweetness and tang of a well-balanced cider. A true preserve, boiled cider used to be a pantry mainstay in New England, but as cane sugar became more widely available and local orchards gave way to housing developments, people grew out of the habit of using it. There are plenty of delicious reasons to make your own, though.
Boiled cider syrup can be used to add depth to barbecue or baked beans as easily as it can become a glaze for an apple cake or homemade apple fritters. Mixed with hot water or seltzer, it makes a great apple toddy or spritzer, and it's fantastic splashed into a salad dressing or as an option for your home bar.
To yield any quantity, it bears starting with a considerable amount—at least a gallon—of fresh, minimally processed cider, and if you're going to bother canning it, you might as well make an even bigger batch than that. You will also require your largest non-reactive pot, a wooden spoon, and several hours. There are just a few ingredients to make it, and the one of key importance is time. For best results, seek out cider that doesn't taste watery. It should instead have a full-bodied sweetness and a pronounced sour note. You'll need that tart edge to balance out the sweetness once you concentrate the flavors.