If heirloom tomatoes in all their pink, green and purple glory are the quintessential taste of summer, then apples must surely be the flavor of fall.
Crispy-sweet or pleasantly tart, the fruits of Johnny Appleseed’s labor in the early 19th century are the go-to fruit for any number of autumnal dishes; great for filling pies and adding crunch to a gooey grilled cheese, they also pair incredibly well with pork chops and add texture to soup.
Plus, they’re incredibly easy to find. And because apples come in so many different varieties, they’re a simple way to change up your daily menu or just give it a jolt of color.
But chopping up and cooking with autumn’s favorite fruit is just the start. The juice pressed from apples — what we commonly know as cider — also makes for some wonderful seasonal creations.
Cider adds a sweet earthiness to fall cooking, and it’s as good a culinary friend to savory items such as cider-brined turkey or chicken as it is to sweet dishes such as doughnuts, cakes and waffles. Boiled down into a gooey syrup, cider can be used as a base for a zippy vinaigrette to drizzle over salad greens or roasted root vegetables; a glaze for homemade cakes or fritters; add depth to a crock of baked beans; or lift a craft cocktail to new heights.
Cider also can be used as a steaming liquid for vegetables, pairs nicely with chicken stock in a rice dish, and because of its natural acidity, helps tenderize and add flavor to a pot of beef stew. A good glug or two also will make your mashed potatoes taste creamier.
And if you prefer the hard stuff?
Fermented cider can be used to poach fish or shrimp or steam mussels; to braise meats such as brisket or a pork roast; create tangy pan sauces; and to help break down a pork shoulder into tender strands of meat for pulled pork sandwiches. In using hard cider, you’ll be paying homage to a beverage that’s as American as, well, apple pie. The Pilgrims brought cider-making equipment with them to Massachusetts, and by the mid-1700s, the average American — kids included — drank some 35 gallons of hard cider a year.
Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson famously brewed hard cider. If you want your cider-centric recipes to be 100 percent homemade, you can, too, using some store-bought apple juice and a couple of inexpensive supplies from your local home brewing store.