This $9 Cider Syrup Does Everything Maple Can and More

updated Dec 13, 2019
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

A couple of months ago, I was left with about half a gallon of apple cider from a round of recipe testing. While I do enjoy the occasional mulled glass around the holidays, we don’t really drink juice in my house so I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the rest of it. The container was taking up a little too much room in my fridge so I wanted to find a way to use it up all in one swoop, if possible.

So down a Google rabbit-hole I went. I won’t say how much time I wasted, but I will share the hard-won results: You make boiled cider. This magical concoction is exactly what I was looking for. It’s simple (you just boil apple cider) and the result is a sweet, tart, and amazingly tasty syrup that works in all kinds of cocktails and baked goods. I immediately took to the kitchen and now, I’ve firmly decided boiled cider is one of the best discoveries I’ve made all year. Let me tell you more.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Boiled Cider Is the Best Thing to Happen to Apples This Season

I am a fan of alternative sweeteners, but this one is very much worth making room for. Boiled cider is actually an old colonial staple, and the tradition was preserved by thrifty New England farmers who needed help preserving their apple cider reserves. Given that New England is also the land of maple syrup, it wasn’t likely much trouble to do the same thing with the juice from apples.

When the juice is simmered uncovered for a few hours, the liquid slowly evaporates, resulting in a thick syrup. As the cider cooks down, the color will transform from golden brown to deep chestnut and all its flavor will concentrate. The result is something that at first glance looks like maple syrup but is arguably even more complex in flavor — sweet yet tangy, with a round, cooked-apple flavor. It’s the deepest expression of apples there is.

DIY or Buy

Unlike maple syrup, though, you can make your own syrup by boiling cider, as I did, or you can buy it. Boiling the cider requires little except time: Depending on how much apple cider you’re starting with, it will take at least a few hours of gentle simmering to turn the cider into syrup. My half-gallon took about three hours, and at the end, I had around a cup of syrup. It’s not entirely hands-off: You will need to give the pot a glance every now and then to see how it’s progressing. And when it’s close to finished, keep an eye on it. It can go from perfectly pourable to overcooked and stiff quickly.

If you’d rather not fuss with making it, I still highly recommend buying a bottle. The most popular brand is made in Vermont by Wood’s Cider Mill. There’s nothing in it except cider. It keeps well and is absolutely delicious. Here are some ideas for using it.

My Favorite Ways to Use Boiled Cider

  • Pour it over pancakes and waffles. Swap your usual jug of maple syrup with boiled cider for an extra-seasonal weekend breakfast.
  • Drizzle it on yogurt and oatmeal. In that same vein, I’ve also been drizzling it on my bowl of yogurt or oatmeal in the morning instead of honey.
  • Make a cocktail. Apples and whiskey are a nice match, so it’s well worth swapping the simple syrup in an Old Fashioned for boiled cider. Or try using it in place of honey in a Hot Toddy.
  • Sweeten coffee or tea. Give your morning mug some flair by sweetening it with a spoonful of cider syrup instead of sugar.
  • Use it as a glaze for vegetables and meat. The tang of boiled cider really brightens the earthiness of root vegetables. Roast them as usual but in the last 10 minutes of cooking, toss them with some boiled cider. If you want to go a step further, stir a little bit of white miso paste into the boiled cider first. The miso paste lends a savory, salty element. I made cider-miso glazed sweet potatoes the other week and the combo is so awesome I can’t stop thinking about it. Or try it instead of honey in this glazed pork tenderloin.
  • Bake with it. Add a spoonful with apple pie or crisp filling to bolster the apple flavor. (This is a trick fellow Vermont company King Arthur Flour recommends in their own pie recipe.) Or try swapping it for some of the molasses in gingerbread cake.

There are countless ingredients clamoring for space in your kitchen. Taste Makers are the ones that actually make a dish amazing. Each month, we’re exploring one ingredient that has earned its place in our small kitchens and will make even simple food taste spectacular.

Your turn: What’s your favorite underrated ingredient in your pantry? What do you reach for when you want to elevate your cooking quickly and easily? Tell us in the comments below! We may give it the star treatment in an upcoming edition of Taste Makers.