Homemade boiled cider: How to make this ultra-flavorful secret ingredient

Boiled cider: a thick, syrupy, apple-scented secret ingredient that brings your favorite apple desserts from good to “how on earth did you make this?!”

Wood’s Cider Mill creates this pantry staple here in New England. But what happens when you finish the last drop and have a hankering for pie or Apple Cider Caramels?

In a pinch, you can make homemade boiled cider. All you need is fresh apple cider, a pot, and time.

Homemade Boiled Cider via @kingarthurflour

How to make homemade boiled cider

So, how much apple cider do you need? A gallon (3,969g) of fresh cider will reduce down to about 2 cups (690g). Since the cider takes up to 6 hours to boil down, I’d recommend starting with at least a gallon to make it more worth your time.

Select a large, sturdy pot designed for long-term stovetop cooking, such as a cast iron pot or Dutch oven. For a gallon of cider, I use a pot that holds at least 5 quarts.

Run out of your favorite fall-baking ingredient? Learn how to make homemade boiled cider in your own kitchen. Click To Tweet

Bring the cider to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, turn the heat to low and let it simmer for 5 to 6 hours, giving a couple of quick stirs twice every hour. Starting around hour five, stir more frequently — every 15 minutes or so.

Note that cook time will vary depending on your stove and which pot you choose. In testing, the boiled cider I made in a metal pot took five hours; in a cast iron pot, six.

Homemade Boiled Cider via @kingarthurflour

An 8-cup measuring cup makes it easy to see how much the cider reduces with each hour.

Homemade Boiled Cider via @kingarthurflour

As the simmering goes on, a 4-cup measuring cup shows the decreasing amount as it thickens and darkens.

How to know when your homemade boiled cider is ready

After the kitchen has been filled with apple-scented steam all day, I feel a little impatient waiting for my boiled cider to be ready. There are a few ways to test if it’s done.

Homemade Boiled Cider via @kingarthurflour

Bubble color: I know it’s done when I stir it and dark copper-colored bubbles form, covering the entire surface.

Homemade Boiled Cider via @kingarthurflour

The chopstick test: The cider will boil down to about 1/8 of its original volume. The easiest way to track this is to place a skewer or chopstick into the cider before turning on the heat. Mark the height of the cider on the chopstick before you start boiling it. Repeat once every hour, marking the new height until it’s about 1/8 the original height.

Homemade Boiled Cider via @kingarthurflour

Homemade boiled cider on the left, honey on the right.

Consistency: Boiled cider has a similar viscosity to honey; when hot it behaves like hot, runny honey. Once cooled, it mimics thick, room-temperature honey.

What about temperature? Just as water does, apple cider has a boiling point: 219°F. The temperature won’t change once it begins to boil. Because of this, the temperature isn’t a good indicator of doneness.

Homemade Boiled Cider via @kingarthurflour

Slightly over-cooked cider on the left has the thick consistency of molasses. Sour, but still useable. VERY over-cooked cider on the right is firm and sticky like taffy. It’s mouth-puckering and liable to rip out your fillings.

Be careful of overcooking boiled cider beyond that copper-bubble stage. It’ll become too thick to easily pour or bake with. It also becomes unpleasantly bitter and sour.

Homemade Boiled Cider via @kingarthurflour

Infuse your homemade boiled cider with other ingredients

To make your batch truly one of a kind, infuse your cider with other flavors. Simmering on the stove for several hours gives you the perfect opportunity to add a little something special. Cinnamon sticks, your favorite spice blend, a sliced vanilla bean, a splash of rum, or orange peels will make your homemade boiled cider extra special.

Homemade Boiled Cider via @kingarthurflour

It’s done!

Run the finished cider through a coffee filter or cheesecloth to remove any impurities, if desired. Store your finished homemade boiled cider in the refrigerator.

Boiled cider-fanatics have told me it will keep indefinitely in the fridge, but mine never sticks around long enough to test that theory.

So, if you run out of this favorite ingredient, can’t wait for shipping, and have a day to spend in a gloriously apple-perfumed kitchen, have no fear! You can make your own boiled cider at home.

If this seems like a present you might like to give to friends and family, include a note with a few ways to use homemade boiled cider every day, or even your favorite recipes calling for it.

What’s your favorite way to use boiled cider? If you’ve never tried it, what will you make first? Let us know in the comments below.

Thanks to Anne Mientka for taking the photos for this post.

Annabelle Nicholson
About

Annabelle grew up in New Hampshire and Vermont and attended New England Culinary Institute to study baking and pastry arts. She works on the Digital Engagement Team, and spends her non-baking time playing board games and cuddling her hedgehog.

comments

    1. Annabelle Nicholson, post author

      The style is called a swing top bottle if that helps in your searching. Happy boiling! Annabelle@KAF

  1. Roxanne Gentilcore

    I’ve made a lot of boiled cider (and live in apple country) and have found that it turns out differently depending what type of cider I use. Now I avoid the runny kind that is thinner and more like apple juice and get the darkest and “thickest” kind of cider I can find. I love it on roasted acorn squash and waffles with cooked apple slices. Everyone in my family gets some for Christmas. Thanks, KAF for testing this so thoroughly!

    Reply
    1. Annabelle Nicholson, post author

      It’s amazing how different it can turn out depending on the cider, Roxanne. I noticed mostly that the colors varied. I have to agree with you that the thicker dark ciders make for the best baking! Annabelle@KAF

    1. Annabelle Nicholson, post author

      I didn’t try that, Marvin, but I don’t see why not! I’d go with 300°F and keep with the twice-hourly stirs. Towards the last hour, I’d put it on the stove so you can see it better since it can go from done to overdone if you don’t keep your eye on it. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

  2. Annette

    So how does something that viscous pass through a coffee filter? I don’t think I could pull viscous cider through a coffee filter with a vacuum line in a research lab.

    Reply
    1. Annabelle Nicholson, post author

      It takes a while, Annette. I personally prefer to just leave it as is without straining or filtering it. While it cooks the mixture separates but by the end it’s a nice, homogenous mixture. Annabelle@KAF

    1. Annabelle Nicholson, post author

      It takes a super long time, Lorraine — 8 to 15 hours. The temperature on slow cookers tends to fluctuate as it’s on and I’d hate for the cider to scorch on the bottom since it would negatively impact the flavor of the whole batch. I’d stick with the stove for the fastest, tastiest results. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

    1. Annabelle Nicholson, post author

      Hi, Vivian. We have a note on some of our recipes that call for boiled cider: “Substitute frozen apple juice concentrate, if you choose; the flavor won’t be quite as good.” I wouldn’t recommend it simply because the flavor is very sweet and lacks the lovely molasses-y flavor, sour, and bitter notes that apple cider creates.
      If apple cider isn’t available in your local stores and you want to try using the apple juice concentrate, I’d leave it as is rather than cooking it down further since it’s already quite concentrated. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

  3. Maggie

    Have you ever tried making this in a slow cooker? Does it get hot enough to cook down in a reasonable amount of time?

    Reply
    1. Annabelle Nicholson, post author

      It’s possible, Maggie, but it feels like it takes forever. Since most slow cookers (at least the ones I’ve seen and used) don’t show their temperature and don’t necessarily have an even heat throughout the cooking time, it can take between 8 and 15 hours to get the cider to thicken up. To me, that’s a little too long! You’re of course welcome to give it a go. Maybe leaving it on high will help move things along. You’ll just want to stir more frequently (3 or 4 times an hour) to ensure it doesn’t burn on the bottom. Annabelle@KAF

  4. Queen of Fifty Cents

    I’ve used it as a sauce for pumpkin ravioli, taking it to the savory side. And my next crepes will be spread with cashew butter and sauced with boiled cider. Yummers!

    Reply
    1. Annabelle Nicholson, post author

      Ooh, I’m definitely going to use some the next time I make butternut squash ravioli — thanks for the inspiration! Most recently I used it to glaze a pork chop and it did not disappoint. Annabelle@KAF

  5. Melissa

    Have you checked the finished product with either a thermometer or a refractometer? That would give another way to track doneness.

    Reply
    1. Annabelle Nicholson, post author

      Good question, Melissa! Once the cider is boiling, (219°F is the boiling point for apple cider) the temperature won’t change. Since the cider usually reaches the boiling point within the first hour and stays the same throughout the entire process, the temperature isn’t a helpful indicator of doneness. Annabelle@KAF

  6. Tess

    Is there a particular temperature the cider will reach when it gets to the right consistency? Sort of like when making caramel? Knowing that would help when you’re getting close, or have gone over.

    Reply
    1. Annabelle Nicholson, post author

      Hi Tess! Apple cider’s boiling point is a little higher than that of water; 219°F to 220°F. Because the cider boils for so long, it gets to this temperature pretty early on, usually within the first hour. It stays at that same temperature for the entire process. Unless of course, if you turn down the heat, then it would be lower. Because of this, temperature isn’t a helpful indicator of when the cider is finished. The copper-colored bubbles were the clearest indicator for me that it was finished. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

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