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Apple Cider Syrup

Apple cider cooked down to a syrup. Spectacular in salad dressings, cocktails, etc.

I have a few aces in my cooking repertoire, not that many, but a few. And this one is probably at the top of the list. Like most things I cook and teach it’s pretty straightforward, laughably simple actually. It came about a few years ago when I had lots of apple cider left over from my family’s cider pressing party. So I decided to reduce about a gallon of the cider until it just got syrupy which took my gallon down to about a pint. (If you reduce a bit too far, add some cream and a little salt for the most divine apple cider caramel sauce!)

I started using a teaspoon or two in salad dressings and I was hooked. The stronger winter greens this time of year are perfectly complemented by this “mystery” ingredient in the dressing. Countless times people have asked me what was in my salad dressing and a friend now can’t make big enough salads since her 8-year-old eats practically the whole bowl. I have to admit this has not worked with  my 4-year-old  . . ..

This syrup also inspired the Party Class I co-taught with cocktail wizard Scott Taylor this last weekend. He encountered the syrup in a Beans Class  (that by the way I’m teaching again with new recipes January 7th) earlier this fall and immediately went home and started mixing drinks with it. It is a winner mixed with bourbon, ginger syrup, bitters and lemon!

Cider syrup over Greek yogurt.

Beyond salads and cocktails the syrup is wonderful over ice cream or Greek yogurt, drizzled onto soups or braises or roasted vegetables or fruits, on pancakes or waffles. . .. It’s sweet and tart and complex and contributes almost anywhere. So go buy a couple of gallons of apple cider, reduce it and give your friends who like to cook and drink a little jar or it as a gift. Or just make a bunch and freeze some. It also keeps well in the fridge for several months.

And speaking of gifts, you might also give the gift of a cooking class (to yourself or others) this season– a gift that doesn’t clutter anyone’s home yet makes a daily difference for the tummy!

Apple Cider Syrup

1 gallon apple cider (not apple juice)

In a large pot or saucepan bring the cider to a boil. Let boil, uncovered until gallon has reduced to approximately two cups of syrup and consistency is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. This can take anywhere from 40 to 90  minutes depending on the size of your pan, the strength of your stove, etc. Refrigerate or freeze when cool.

Apple and Quince Tart

The last three quince from the little tree in my back yard.

Before we get into the tart I want to talk about veggies. And before we talk about veggies, you might have noticed that things look a little different around here. I’ve upgraded the blog a bit and combined it with my website. Now you can find everything Cook With What You Have in one place!  The recipes are newly categorized and more searchable and I’ve shared some of your feedback to my classes. A big thank you to Andrea Lorimor Photography and Brenna Switzer of Square Lines for making this transformation possible!

I can get carried away with salads and other dishes and keep adding things: nuts, cheese, dried or fresh fruit, lots of herbs, and so on and so forth. And I love all those things and I love them all together in salads but as I get ready for Thanksgiving I’ve decided to simplify, at least for this meal. I’m going to make a salad with just really good salad greens, maybe some whole parsley leaves and a simple dressing. And I’m going to braise some green cabbage as a side dish in a little butter with some onion and a dash of sherry vinegar at the end–nothing else.  There will be so much going on on the table that I think the simplicity will be nice. Maybe it’s because I cook and experiment so much that I’m craving these pared down versions. However, if this week is your chance to really cook and get creative, by all means do. It will be wonderful. But if you don’t want to buy a bunch of ingredients and do lots of chopping and planning, don’t be afraid of making something with a couple of ingredients and serving it proudly (with plenty of good salt and olive oil!).

Russet apples and quince

Now to the tart that kind of follows the above, simplified veggie theme. And it was a total cook-with-what-you-have process. I had combined the leftover pie dough from three pies from this weekend’s class into one ball and put it in the fridge. One of the doughs had ben for a savory tart and had been made with an egg and the other two were classic all-butter pie doughs. The chunk seemed about right for one single-crust tart or pie. I had three quince (I’ve been add ind a few quince to apple and pear sauce all fall and they are divine in this form too!) on the counter that needed using and a handful of russet apples. So I sliced the fruit, mixed in some lemon zest and a little sugar, a few tablespoons of reduced apple cider and some vanilla.

Sliced apples and quince with lemon zest

I baked the whole thing until it was bubbly and the fruit was tender, though that was a bit of a problem. I had tried to slice the quince thinner than the apples knowing they take longer to bake but if I were to do this again, I’d keep the quince and apples separate and put the quince in a layer right on the crust and then spread the apples over them. That way the quince would cook in the cider reduction that coats the bottom and be steamed a bit by the apples above and would probably cook in the same amount of time. I ended up just leaving it in the oven longer than would have been needed for the apples and all turned out fine. You could of course poach the quince for a few minutes first too.

The finished product.

This is the kind of tart that you can eat several slices of and still not feel overly indulgent. It’s the opposite of the rich, gooey pecan pies or custardy pumpkin ones. And even with a dollop of whipped cream it’s on the lighter end of desserts so it might make a nice complement to the typical, richer fare this Thursday.

I hope you have a wonderful time cooking and eating this week. I’m so grateful for all the bounty we have and wish you all a warm, cozy place to be with a good plate of food and friends and family.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Apple Quince Tart

You could make this with pears and apples or just pears for a nice variation. You can use a favorite pie or tart dough recipe or the one below which includes an egg and is very easy to work with. You do not need to let this dough rest in the fridge, though you certainly can.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour 
(or ¾ cup apf and ¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour)
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2-3 tablespoons cold water

Make the dough by mixing the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and use your hands, or a pastry blender, to break in the butter until the mixture has a crumbly, cornmeal-like texture. Mix the egg with 2 tablespoons of the water. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the beaten egg mixture, stirring the mixture until the dough holds together. If it’s not coming together easily, add the additional tablespoon of ice water. Gather the dough into a ball and roll the dough on a lightly floured surface, adding additional flour only as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to the counter. Roll it out a bit larger than your tart pan and fit the dough into in snugly. Fold any rough edges over on itself even with the rim of the pan and press into the side of the pan.

Preheat your oven to 425.

Filling:

about 5 cups sliced apples and quince (or apples and pears, see headnote), keeping apples and quince separate
1/3 – 1/2 cup sugar (depending on tartness of fruit)
zest of half a lemon
3 tablespoons reduced apple cider*
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 tablespoons butter

Depending on your ratio of quince to apples mix each with the respective amount, more or less, of sugar and lemon zest. Mix the reduced cider and vanilla in a small bowl. Spread the quince on the bottom of the unbaked tart shell. Spread the apples over the quince and then drizzle the cider vanilla mixture evenly over the fruit and dot it with little pieces of butter. Bake for about 45 minutes until all the fruit is tender and is starting to brown around the edges.

*I keep reduced apple cider on hand to add to salad dressings and many other dishes this time of year. You just reduce 1/2 gallon of cider down to about 1 1/2 cups for a nice, slightly syrupy consistency.

Perfect Pie

A sour cherry pie I made this summer.

I’m compelled to post about pie several times a year, but especially and most regularly, this time of year. Cakes and quick breads are great, as are cobblers and cookies but pies evoke more superlatives for me than all else. Maybe it’s my family’s Thanksgiving tradition that involves more pies than seem reasonable but after all, it’s really about being able to have pie for breakfast (and lunch and dinner!) the day after Thanksgiving. It’s about crimping that dough and praying that it won’t droop in the hot oven in all its buttery goodness. And it’s about apples and pumpkins, nuts and even leafy greens with eggs and spices that fill those buttery shells, that makes me happy.

Apple Pie waiting to be covered and crimped (my favorite part).

I’m dying to try this pie and this crust (even though I’ve always stuck with all-purpose flour for pie crust) and finally trying butternut squash instead of pumpkin in a “pumpkin” pie  . . .as I’m getting ready for the annual Pie Class at Cook With What You Have. I’d love for you to come, share your pie stories, roll pie dough and slice fruit and enjoy a meal of pie, both sweet and savory (and a salad or two) on a cozy Saturday! Saturday, November 19th that is–the weekend before Thanksgiving–so you’ll have license to ignore other household tasks or work to come make pie because you’ll improve everyone else’s day the following Thursday with your home-made beauty!