The Obsession Continues: Apple Cider Caramels

Apple Cider Caramels

Apple Cider Caramels

I have been on cider bender the past few months. Since early October my fridge has contained no less than one half-gallon of fresh apple cider, purchased anywhere from Farmer’s Markets to the grocery store. I’ve drank it straight, mulled with Applejack and used it for various cooking endeavors, like this brined pork roast.

However, the best creation I made are these apple cider caramels from an old issue of Food & Wine magazine. They tasted (depending on which friend of mine you asked) like caramel apple pops, apple fritters or candied apples. To me they were just as I imagined,  a perfect combination of the spiced cider flavor — cloves, cinnamon and tart apple — and creamy decadent caramel.

They were also luxuriously soft. While they’d hold their shape in the refrigerator, once popped in your mouth, they would melt almost instantly. They were so good I had to fight my natural instinct to hoard them and instead manged to share them with co-workers, friends and even some of my favorite customers in Seattle.

My friend Ariel loved them so much I think I have to make a batch just for her and her husband to enjoy. I gave her a few to take home and got this hilarious text message later that night: “Holy sheep shit, Batman” is what Eric said after trying a bite of one of your caramels. Now that’s a compliment, people!

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Cider + Liquor + Cajeta = Deliciously Evil

I love having a signature cocktail when I throw a party. Last year at my honey-themed birthday party I had a station set up where guests could make a Honey Badger (St. Germain, honey syrup and sparkling wine). So when I hosted my harvest-themed dinner party, I decided to come up with something fun to drink besides wine.

Since I had just made my own home-pressed apple cider, I used that as a base. I heated it up with some mulling spices to give it more flavor, letting it simmer for about 10 minutes with a cinnamon stick, cloves, allspice and dried orange peel. Once the spices were strained out, I contemplated my liquor cabinet.

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Hello, Delicious! Swiss Chard, Tomato & Bread Gratin

Sometimes I get the feeling that food fate exists, as if there are just things we are destined to eat. Upon my first bite of this dish, I am even more confident in that belief. Why, you ask? Let me tell you a little story. I am a hoarder of recipes, a collector of torn pages from numerous food-related magazines which are then lovingly organized in one of ten different folders I keep by my couch. I like to go through them often, adding new recipes, reorganizing, maybe pulling out one or two to actually make over the weekend. It’s a sickness, I know. I grapple with that daily. And yet, I can’t stop.

Recently, in an effort to un-hoard, I have been trying to either throw out recipes I know (deep in my heart) that I will never make. Or, better yet, trying to resist tearing them out in the first place if I feel even the slightest bit “meh” about them.

And so as delicious as this Tomato and Swiss Chard Gratin sounded, I was hesitant. With all the wonderful carb-loaded things I eventually want to make, would this actually ever be at the top of the list? Will I pass this recipe by to try out yet another macaroni and cheese instead? Would I ever feel the need to buy a bunch of fairly expensive things: plump beefsteak tomatoes, five pounds of Swiss chard and a nice Gruyère cheese just to bake a fancy casserole? Its chances were not looking good.

Three different times, I almost threw the magazine out with that page still inside. But finally about three weeks ago, in a fit of optimism, I yanked it out. Instantly I was annoyed with myself for adding another stack of paper to the already massive pile of recipes waiting to be filed away in their respective folders.

(Oh god, I’m practically begging someone to plan an intervention for me.)

Anyways here’s the shocking news: within two weeks, I had made it! And in not-so-shocking news, it was freakin’ amazing. Like, so unbelievably good. Yes, this is the dish I referenced in my Cider Press post, the dish that was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. The bread became almost like custard, the chard and onions added depth, the tomatoes kept it moist and the cheese was (of course) sublime.

I am already dying to make it again. In fact, I’m dreaming about this instead of stuffing to go with my turkey at Thanksgiving…or maybe with leftover turkey layered inside? The possibilities are endless.

Here’s some in-the-making pictures to hopefully make your mouth water…

First layer of bread and tomatoes

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The Cider Press Rules

Apples, apples everywhere

Did you catch a hint of John Irving in that title? If you did, we must be kindred spirits. The Cider House Rules is one of my favorite books, and every time I started typing anything about cider, it kept popping into my head. I couldn’t shake it.

Anyways, if it were required of me to make rules for a cider press party, it would be a simple task.

  1. Buy apples (basically so many apples that it’s overwhelming)
  2. Invite friends (think like Tom Sawyer, more people=less work for you!)
  3. Make good food (this way your friends can’t blame you when they feel used)
  4. Spend the afternoon drinking beer and making delicious fresh-pressed cider

It’s that easy! And, when you see all of the glorious fresh cider come pouring out, it’s also pretty damn exciting.

Here’s some scenes from my first cider press party, which took place the weekend before Halloween.

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The Beer Chronicles Continue: Anthem’s Hops Cider

I know, I know, it’s a cider, not a beer. But ever since I got wind about a cider made with hops, I have been dying to try it. And, since Anthem’s Cherry Cider is the most popular hit out of all of the beer I’ve covered, I felt it was necessary to review this one as well. That my excuse — I’m doing it for the people!

Ahem.

Anyways. I’ve mentioned that I love hoppy beers. I especially love the season when many Oregon micro breweries do their “fresh hopped” beers. These tend to be less bitter and more herbaceous and floral than their regular run-of-the-mill counterparts. While this cider is dry hopped, not fresh, I still held on to the hope that the palate might be similar. I was also hoping it would blow me away — which Anthem’s cherry version failed to do.

Let’s just say, as visions of apples and hops danced in my head, I was pretty anxious to open this bottle!

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The Beer Chronicles Continue: Anthem Cherry Cider

I bought this bottle without reading the label and up until the moment I opened it I thought I had bought a cherry sour beer. Then I took a closer look at the label — oh, a cider! Well, I’m not one to turn down alcohol (except whiskey perhaps) and a cider certainly sounded quenching, so I rolled with it. I was also very curious because I realized this label is produced by Wandering Aengus, a local cider producer. The Salem-based company is very well-known in town and I’ve often bought their ciders at the Farmer’s Markets.

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