Crave: Cooking with apple cider opens the door to new flavors
photo by: Getty Images/Robertsre via Mother Earth News
When autumn in New England is in full swing, our lives are awash in cider. The days in our small orchard fall into a rhythm: a few days of picking apples and putting them into 600-pound bins, and then a few days spent squeezing those apples on a century-old Mt. Gilead hydraulic apple press. It’s hard work, noisy, and fragrant with apple spray–it’s sensory overload, but in the best possible way. The juice that flows into the holding tanks will be an integral part of our whole year, the nectar of our labor that’ll nourish our family and customers.
Jonathan and I started our cider orchard on land that has been growing apples since the mid-1800s. We’re a no-spray orchard and farm, and because our fruit is destined for the press and not a fruit basket, we’re less concerned with cosmetic appearance, and instead we’re obsessed with juice quality. We have lower yields than conventional growers in the area, but we’re committed to growing food that causes no harm to our land, our friends and neighbors, and the environment as a whole – and we’ve noticed that our low-input approach in the orchard produces apples with a higher concentration of sugars. We call that a win!
Our lives as growers and producers might feel concentrated during the fall, but it’s a full calendar year endeavor, with each season having its unique and important jobs and rewards. Of course, the biggest reward, regardless of the season, is the food and drink we enjoy. Cider, in its many guises, threads its way through the entirety of the year, and sharing all we’ve learned and developed is possibly one of the most fun parts of our work. We sell our ciders and cider-based pantry products at farmers markets, online, and in shops across the country, and we talk to a lot of people about eating and drinking – a favorite thing in life for most of us. It’s nice to share that commonality with all sorts of people.
We’re incredibly excited to share our collection of recipes in our book, Ciderhouse Cookbook. Some of the recipes are old favorites, some are newly developed, and some are from my sister, Andrea, who’s a professional cook in California. In addition to being a celebration of cider–from fresh, to fermented, to boiled, to acetified–we hope it exemplifies the simple, honest way we like to cook, and that these recipes below inspire people to make their own food to nourish their loved ones.
Winter Squash and Red Lentil Soup with Chard
This soup is really a meal, thanks to the protein-rich red lentils. Well-spiced and flavorful, it can stand on its own, but it’s elevated by the addition of garnishes, which is how we feel about most soups. Try extra-virgin olive oil, thick yogurt, or sour cream for swirling on top, followed by a sprinkle of chopped cilantro and thinly sliced scallions. Yield: 6 servings.
1 medium kabocha squash
6 cloves garlic, divided
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 1/2 cups leeks, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, minced
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 cup dry hard cider
1 cup red lentils
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
7 cups water (or half water and half chicken stock)
1/4 cup cider syrup
1 cup chopped Swiss chard
1 cup whole milk (or non-dairy milk of your choice)
Extra-virgin olive oil, yogurt, or sour cream, for garnish (optional)
Chopped cilantro and thinly sliced scallions, for garnish (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, and oil a baking sheet.
2. Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and place face-down on the oiled baking sheet. Stick 5 of the garlic cloves (don’t remove the papery skins) into the cavities of the squash. Roast for 30 minutes, or until the squash is completely soft.
3. Heat the sunflower oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and celery, and sweat, stirring regularly, until they begin to soften and turn translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the paprika and cumin, and then add the hard cider to deglaze the pot.
4. Scoop out the flesh of the roasted squash, and add it to the pot. Remove the skins from the roasted garlic cloves, and add the garlic to the pot, along with the lentils, bay leaf, salt, water, and cider syrup. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 1 hour.
5. Remove the bay leaf, and then, using an immersion or stand blender, puree the soup. (Let it cool a little first if you’re using a stand blender.)
6. Bring the soup back to a simmer over medium-low heat. Add the chard, and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Crush the remaining clove of garlic, and add it to the soup. Slowly stir in the milk, and heat for another few minutes, making sure it doesn’t boil. Serve hot, topped with garnishes, if using.
Roasted Pork Tenderloin With Rosemary, Garlic, Cider Syrup, and Dates
This lovely, herbed roast would make a fine centerpiece for a formal Sunday dinner. Andrea learned this recipe from a butcher who lived high in the Alps of Switzerland, where delectable speck and other curing meats hung from every eave of their chalet’s exterior.
Yield: 6 servings.
1/4 cup fresh rosemary
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin
6 dates, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup cider syrup
1. Combine the rosemary, garlic, salt, and olive oil in a blender or food processor. Blend to make a paste.
2. Coat the entire pork tenderloin with the herb paste, and let it rest in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. Place the tenderloin in a ceramic or glass baking dish, and tuck the dates underneath. Roast for 30 to 45 minutes, or until cooked through (145 degrees on a meat thermometer). Five minutes before the end of the cooking time, brush the tenderloin with the syrup.