Wood’s boiled cider: The story behind this pantry star

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The Fall 2017 issue of Sift magazine features one of our favorite secret ingredients – boiled cider – and the story of a family’s effort to preserve this New England tradition.

Wood’s Cider Mill sits on a rolling hillside, overlooking a sweeping valley below. Steam billows out of the boil room into the crisp autumn air, where the Wood family has been turning fresh apples into boiled cider for nearly 150 years.

Thicker and darker than maple syrup, boiled cider is made from freshly-pressed apple cider that’s transferred to an evaporator (not unlike those used to boil sap), and is heated until it reaches peak viscosity. Its nuanced apple flavor is at once robust and sweet, and varies slightly each season, reflecting the changing qualities of the year’s weather, soil, and air.

The cider mill has been a family operation from the start; to this day, owners Willis and Tina Wood’s children come from all across the country to help with the harvest. Apples are hand-loaded from a truck parked in the back of their converted sugarhouse, then transferred onto a belt where they’re washed, macerated, and then poured onto the press.

Originally a sawmill, the business was converted into a cider operation toward the end of the 1700s when the logging industry moved west, harnessing the power of water to mill apples instead. Cloths and wooden hydraulic racks sandwich the mashed apples in layers, which are then strained using the original Twin Screw Press that was purchased by the Wood family back in 1882 and has been used ever since.

“Back then, there was no refrigeration,” Willis explains, “so once you’d had all the cider and hard cider you could stand, you had two choices [for what to do with the rest] — boil it down, or make jelly preserves.”

In Springfield, Vermont alone, there were three cider mills at the turn of the century, but around 1930, demand began to fall. Willis believes that as canned and pre-packaged convenience items began to replace home cooking, the need for specialty ingredients such as boiled cider declined. One by one, cider presses disappeared from towns around New England. When Willis took over the business from his grandfather’s 80-year-old cousin, Augustus Aldrich, in 1970, sales of boiled cider were at an all-time low.

“Boiled cider was for ‘old-lady cooks,’ ” Willis jokes. “They’d come and get a bottle because their husband shot a deer and they wanted to make mincemeat with it, or they’d grown up with it, but no one else wanted it.”

Then things changed. Fifteen years ago, the interest in home cooking and baking began its resurgence. Access to the internet made specialty ingredients easier to incorporate into everyday cuisine; the demand for cider began to pick up. A new generation of epicures began to appreciate the many uses for boiled cider, beyond its traditional roots.

“You could say it was the millennials,” says Willis, “or the boomers retiring – I don’t know who’s cooking more, but people cooking is what brought back the cider.”

Boiled cider’s rich, concentrated apple flavor makes it a perfect pairing for many culinary applications: A few tablespoons of it in your favorite apple pie recipe elevates the filling, adding a complexity that the fruit alone can’t achieve. Its syrupy tang is an ideal sweetener for homemade muffins, and cocktail aficionados can turn to it as a flavorful replacement for sugar, adding nuance to autumn-inspired drinks.

Today, there are only two companies in Vermont making boiled cider commercially, and the Wood family is widely credited with keeping the tradition alive.

“There’s some reason to change with the times, and there’s some reason to stay the same and cross your fingers,” says Willis. As boiled cider regains popularity, and bakers and cooks discover its potential, we’ll all be glad that the Wood family chose to take their chances, preserving this beloved-once-more regional food tradition.

10 fresh ideas for boiled cider

Boiled cider is so much more than a baking ingredient. Once you get to know it for the flavor powerhouse it is, you’ll find hundreds of ways to use it to amp up your recipes. Here’s a small sampling of ways we like to cook with it, courtesy of fellow employee-owner Susan Reid.

Roasted root vegetable glaze

Toss diced parsnips, squash, rutabagas, carrots, turnips, and Brussels sprouts with 2 tablespoons each boiled cider and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast on a parchment-lined baking sheet until the vegetables are tender and the edges are browned.

Cider vinaigrette

Whisk together 2 tablespoons boiled cider, 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon minced shallots, 1/2 teaspoon mustard, salt, and pepper to taste along with 3/4 cup sunflower oil or mild olive oil. Excellent on grain or spinach salads.

Cocktails

Boiled cider’s deep, concentrated flavor makes it an excellent mixer in all kinds of cocktails. Add it to your next Cape Codder for a cran-apple touch. Make a cider Moscow Mule, or add some boiled cider to your next batch of hot buttered rum, stirred with a cinnamon stick.

Cider-mustard meat glaze

Combine 1/4 cup each boiled cider and whole-grain mustard. Brush over pork tenderloin or chops when roasting.

Boiled cider sweet potatoes

When mashing your next batch of sweet potatoes, add 2 tablespoons boiled cider with the butter, salt, and pepper for an extra dash of flavor.

Apple Cider Caramels via @kingarthurflour

Cider caramels

Apple pie meets caramel in these soft, chewy candies. When wrapped in parchment they’re the perfect homemade treat to hand out on Halloween. The full Apple Cider Caramels recipe comes together in just 35 minutes.

Cider-cranberry chutney

Simmer together one 10-ounce bag of cranberries, 1/2 cup diced onion, 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1/4 cup cider vinegar, and 1/4 cup boiled cider until the cranberries collapse and the mixture thickens. Spread on turkey sandwiches or sliced ham.

Cider syrup

Melt 1/4 cup butter with 1/4 cup brown sugar, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1/2 cup boiled cider. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over pancakes or waffles.

Soups and stews

Add a splash of boiled cider to your next batch of squash-and-ginger soup or chicken curry for a touch of rich apple flavor.

Cider drizzle

Whisk together 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons boiled cider, and 1 tablespoon heavy cream (add more if needed for consistency) for a quick and tasty glaze to drizzle over cookies, cinnamon rolls, coffeecake, or muffins.

Enhance your favorite autumn recipes with boiled cider, the essence of just-picked apples. Click To Tweet
Julia Reed
About

Julia Reed is a New England-based food and lifestyle writer/photographer, and Multimedia Producer at King Arthur Flour. Educated at Emerson College in Boston, she spent 5 years in Los Angeles before returning East, leaving behind food trucks, secret dinners, and year-round farmers' markets to pursue ...

comments

  1. Viv

    I need to bookmark this page! I still have a couple of bottles of boiled cider that I wasn’t sure how to use, and these ideas will probably use ’em up, and then I will have to buy more, haha. 🙂

    Reply
  2. Monica

    Well, obviously I’m going to have to replenish my supply of boiled cider! I have only about a third of a bottle left after making the above mentioned apple pie, which is now nestled safely in the freezer awaiting its Thanksgiving morning bake (BTW, that is an outstanding recipe). I especially like the look of that Cider-Cranberry Chutney. Great blog post! I’m definitely bookmarking this one.

    Reply
  3. Susan

    Besides the wonderful baking uses I also make apple juice for our grandchildren. Store bought apple juice is lacking in flavor so I decided to make my own with my boiled cider, it is wonderful and healthier!

    Reply
  4. frances hastings

    I was thrilled to get this history of Woods . About 80 yrs. ago my brother and I lived near Augustus Aldrich Farm and we would walk a half mile to that place and do the dishes for the old maid cousins and we got .10 cents a day for doing them and heated the water on the stoves and used home made soap etc. Have been there to visit the Wood’s and had them send gifts at Christmas to my brother in Florida. Loved your King Arthur place when we were there this summer. Thanks Frances

    Reply
  5. Marlene Policastro

    I have a passion for baking and am CRAZY about this boiled cider. I’m a huge fan of King Arthur’s products and their recipes. I kept seeing this product over and over and finally purchased it. I’ve used it in two different recipes and they were home runs!!! King Arthur makes me look good ~ Thank You

    Reply
  6. Deborah

    I live in Ohio, where do I find this Boiled Apple Cider? I am a canner, And I know How I think I can use it in my canning of fruits.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Deborah, Boiled Cider is a specialty product that’s available on our website here. We’ll have it shipped right to your door! Kye@KAF

  7. Margy

    Boiled cider is wonderful with pork, either as an ingredient in a glaze or barbecue sauce, or as part of the liquid in braising pork shoulder.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Technically there’s no expiration date, Rose, so as long as it’s kept refrigerated, it should last a good long time. For best results, we’d recommend using it within a year. Mollie@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’ve never had it go bad on us as long as it’s kept refrigerated, Pamela, but for best results, we’d recommend using it within about a year. Mollie@KAF

  8. Sue

    Thanks for this wonderful article. I first started buying boiled cider via KA catalog shopping when I still lived in Nevada. We moved to southern Vermont 15 years ago & for a couple of years, I bought it when I drove up to the KA store twice yearly. Imagine my surprise when I went apple picking & drove by a little tiny sign with the names Willis & Tina Woods on it. I knew the names because it’s on their label & I happened to be driving in Springfield, Vt.!

    Reply
  9. Nancy

    I haven’t been baking as much as I used to, due to a medical condition where I must limit sweets and carbs. I am ecstatic to learn of the ways I can use boiled cider in my salad dressings, roasted veggies, meat glazes, with yogurt, in soups, with sweet potatoes, and in my homemade applesauce! THANKS for all the ideas! I have a bottle in my refrigerator, barely used, and now I cant WAIT to start cooking!

    Reply
  10. Carol

    I love this ingredient. I have used it for the Pork Loin with Boiled Cider Glaze recipe I found on their website.
    Put pork in roasting pan.
    In small bowl Combine 2/3 cup Boiled Cider, 2 teaspoons powdered ginger, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 4 Tablespoons canola oil, 4 cloves garlic (minced), 2 teaspoons dry Rosemary (crumbled), 2 Tablespoons lemon juice.
    Rub this mixture over pork, cover and marinate for 30 minutes.
    Pour off and RESERVE cider mixture. For safety, I Boiled this reserved marinade for 1 minute on stovetop while pork was cooking at high heat.
    Add 1/2 cup white wine to pan and place in 500 degree oven. Roast 15 minutes uncovered.
    Reduce heat to 350 and roast 30 minutes, basting occasionally with reserved cider mixture until pork temperature is 145-150 degrees.
    Remove from oven and pan and rest 10 min. ( might want to tent meat with foil).
    Place roasting pan over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup water and scrape up carmelized bits, stirring until it reduces slightly. Add remaining cider marinade to this sauce. Slice pork, drizzle with sauce, ENJOY.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Thelma, we offer the boiled cider from Wood’s Cider Mill for sale through our catalog and website, so you can order a bottle for yourself right here. In Vermont it’s not uncommon to find it in specialty food stores, but we’re not sure that the same would be true in other parts of the country, so ordering may end up being your best bet. Mollie@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Rosalind, you might also enjoy a read through this blog article with links to some of our favorite ways to bake with boiled cider. Happy baking! Mollie@KAF

    1. PJ Hamel

      While it may not be produced in a certified GF facility, it’s certainly inherently gluten-free — it’s simply apple cider pressed from fresh apples, boiled until thick. PJH

  11. Millie Merriam

    I made the boiled cider at home. I used 1 gallon of sweet cider and got a tad over 1 pint of Boiled Cider. Used some in my apple crisp which was delicious! Will be trying some of the other recipes you have printed in the near future.

    Reply

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