Posts Tagged ‘Cider Days’

Easier Than Pie Apple Fritters

Friday, November 5th, 2010

 
The first weekend in November in our corner of western Massachusetts is reserved for Cider Days, our annual celebration of the end of the apple harvest.
 
Events are scheduled all over Franklin County this year. They will include a special tribute to the late Terry Maloney of West County Cider, who started this festival in 1994 with his wife and business partner Judith.
 
Local food lovers should plan on attending some of the events on Saturday and Sunday, which include orchard tours, cider-based meals, and (my personal favorite) a cider salon.
 
I am lining up some cider and apple recipes for the West County Independent. They will doubtless find their way onto these pages eventually.
 
Meanwhile, here is a preview to get you in the mood.
 
These apple fritters are the brainchild of Sheila Velazquez of Pen and Plow Farm in Hawley, Massachusetts.
 
The recipe couldn’t be simpler. If you slice the apples quite thin and make sure the batter is spread throughout the apple pieces, you get a lovely combination of sweet and tart, crispy and slightly soft. The fritters can be used as an accompaniment for pork or stew—or as a simple dessert or breakfast treat.
 
Sheila says she omits the sugar and uses this same recipe for corn and zucchini fritters. I can’t wait until next summer to try those. The apple version is absolutely addictive.
 
Sheila’s Apple Fritters
 
Ingredients:
 
1 cup flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar (I actually couldn’t find confectioner’s sugar and used regular sugar, which worked just fine!)
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional–Tinky’s addition!)
1/3 cup milk
1 egg
2 cups thinly sliced apples (try for a relatively crispy apple; I used galas)
canola or vegetable oil as needed for frying
 
Instructions:
 
In a bowl whisk together the flour, the baking powder, the salt, the sugar, and the cinnamon (if you are using it; I loved it). In a smaller bowl whisk together the milk and egg.
 
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and stir just until they are blended. If your batter is a little too wet, add a tiny bit of flour; if it’s dry, add a small amount of milk.
 
Toss in the apples, trying to coat them lightly but thoroughly.
 
Cover the bottom of a nonstick frying pan with oil and heat it until the oil shimmers. Pop in a few apple pieces at a time and reduce the heat so that the fritters won’t cook too quickly. Fry the apple fritters on one side; then the other.
 
Keep the fritters in a warm oven until their relatives are ready to serve. Or just dole them out to those waiting eagerly at the table as they are ready. 

Serves 4 to 6.

Glazed Autumn Cider Cake

Friday, November 13th, 2009

Cider Pound Cakeweb

 
Cider Days are over, but I still have cider on the brain–and in the refrigerator. So I  baked a cider cake.
 
This recipe makes A LOT of cake; it’s great for a brunch or a coffee party. I was lucky enough to have the new Williams-Sonoma “Autumn Leaf” Bundt pan to cook with; it’s not only beautiful but large enough to hold all the batter.
 
(Full disclosure: Nordic Ware, which manufacturers the pan, gave it to me to play with. I wouldn’t be writing about it if I hadn’t loved working with it, however.)
 
If you’re serving fewer people or don’t have a huge Bundt pan, you might want to cut the recipe down by a third; use 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, and so forth. In that case, reduce the cooking time as well.
 
My family and friends had split opinions on the glaze. Several of us (including me) thought it added to the cake’s visual appeal just as glaze adds to the appeal of pottery; it made it shiny and gave it depth. The glaze’s crunch also gave the cake two textures instead of just one.
 
My mother decided that she would have preferred cream-cheese frosting to offset the cake’s spices. And one of my neighbors suggested that the cake would have been just as tasty with neither icing nor glaze. Experiment as you see fit!
 
Ingredients:
 
for the cake:
 
1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3 cups flour
1 cup cider
 
for the glaze:
 
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
4 teaspoons cider
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a large Bundt pan or spray it with Baker’s Joy. Cream the butter; then gradually add the sugar, beating well. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Stir in the baking powder, salt, and spices.

Gently add the flour to the creamed mixture alternately with the apple cider, beginning and ending with the flour.
 
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
 
Cool the cake for 15 minutes on a rack before removing it from the pan. While it is cooling prepare the glaze. Combine the glaze ingredients in a saucepan and bring them to a boil. Simmer them, stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes, until they are a little tacky.
 
Remove the cake from the pan when it is ready, positioning it on a rack under which you have placed waxed paper (the glaze is messy!). Gently spoon or brush the glaze over the cake, piercing a few holes in the cake if you like with a fork to help it absorb the glaze. You may want to wait a few minutes and then spoon up the glaze on the paper and put it back on the cake.
 
Let the cake cool completely before you serve it. Serves 12 to 16.
 
cider pound cake cuweb
 

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Cider Days and Cider Pot Roast

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

Cider Pot Roastweb

 
Life slows down in early November here in western Massachusetts. Our leaves have begun their steep decline: the bright colors of the local landscape are fast giving way to the grays and silvers that foretell winter’s whites.
 
Halloween is over (each day I tell myself I will put away the orange lights and haunted houses TOMORROW!), and the family bustle of Thanksgiving has yet to sneak up on us. We might have nothing to do in the hilltowns—if it weren’t for Cider Days.
 
Cider Days were started about 15 years ago in the quiet town of Colrain, where our lovely hard West County Cider was born. The annual event (which takes place this coming weekend) has several functions.
 
It celebrates the end of the harvest season. It educates interested folks in the ins and outs of cider making (both hard and sweet) and cider cookery. And it gives local residents a final fall festival of demonstrations, sales, and hearty meals.
 
Lots of local restaurateurs will be serving apple- and cider-themed dishes, including my friends at the Green Emporium, where apple pizza and apple martinis will be among the featured dishes.
 
If you’re in the area, take advantage of this final chance to get outdoors before the snow falls, to ponder the harvest and the winter to come.
 
If you’re not, you may use your own local cider in this slightly sweet pot roast, adapted from cider expert Vrest Orton.
 
Cider Pot Roast
 
Ingredients:
 
1-1/2 cups sweet cider (plus more later if needed)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
5 cloves
1 large onion, sliced
1 3-to-4-pound pot roast
flour as needed
canola oil as needed
1 pound carrots, cut into fairly small slices
 
Instructions:
 
Combine the cider, sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and onion. Pour this marinade over the beef, and let it stand, covered, in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Turn and baste from time to time. Remove the roast from the marinade (save the marinade!), and sprinkle it with flour.
 
Heat the oil, and brown the meat in it in a Dutch oven. Lower the heat, add the marinade and about 1 cup water, and cover tightly. Simmer for 3 hours. After the first hour, be sure to turn the roast every half hour or so, and to add more cider and water if the meat looks a bit dry.
 
At the end of the 3 hours, throw in the carrots; make sure they are covered with liquid. Cook for another 1 to 2 hours. Serve with noodles. Serves 4 to 6.

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November in the Hills: Embracing the Darkness (Part II)

Thursday, November 13th, 2008
Judith Maloney (Courtesy of West County Cider/CISA)

Judith Maloney (Courtesy of West County Cider/CISA)

          A strong proponent of November in our western Massachusetts hilltowns is Judith Maloney of West County Cider in Shelburne. Along with her husband Terry and a group of sweet- and hard-cider enthusiasts, Judith founded Cider Days in 1994. This tradition of celebrating the apple harvest and sharing cider, which takes place the first weekend in November, is now a highlight of autumn in Franklin County.

          To Judith, Cider Days don’t just honor the harvest. They also keep a way of life alive. She told me last week that early on she saw this festival as “something that would keep the apple trees in the ground—because the economics of apples have changed very much over the last 20 years. No longer do people buy apples to store over the winter. They buy them at the supermarket, and [the apples] come from Australia and New Zealand.”

          In contrast, says Judith, Cider Days preserve local apples and cider–and the trees that produce them. “We’re so lucky to have these trees,” she said with passion. “A lot of them have great age on them. [And] there’s a lot of knowledge among the orchardists along the valley and in the hills. It’s great that we can go onto the next season with that knowledge still spreading.”

          One of this year’s Cider Days speakers enthusiastically takes his celebration on to that next season, when the trees have yielded all their fruit and the snow has settled in. Michael Phillips of Lost Nation Orchard in Groveton, New Hampshire, takes a group deep into the woods on a dark night once a year to mark “old” Epiphany (January 17, the 12th night after Christmas in the old Julian calendar). There the group sings, dances, salutes the apple trees that will blossom in spring, and shares warm refreshments, including wassail (spiced cider-y punch) and slices of wassail pie.

          Here are the lyrics to the song the wassailers sing, courtesy of Michael Phillips:

Oh apple tree, we’ll wassail thee in hope that thou will bear.

The Lord does know where we shall be to be merry another year.

To blow well and to bear well, and so merry let us be:

Let every man drink up his cup, here’s health to the old apple tree.

To blow well and to bear well, and so merry let us be:

Let every man drink up his cup, here’s health to the old apple tree.

(Repeat all twice more)

Apples now–

Hats full,

Caps full,

Barrels full,

Three bushel bags full,

Barn floors full,

                   And even a little heap under the stairs.

Hip, Hip, Hooray! Hip, Hip, Hooray! Hip, Hip, Hooray!

          In his book The Apple Grower, Michael explains that he likes to greet the season with gusto. He writes, “[O]ur gathering often occurs on the coldest night of the winter. There’s certainly an almost mystical power in sharing apple custom with forty dear friends as you dance around the chosen tree at thirty degrees below zero!”
          Now, there’s someone who knows how to embrace the season’s darkness.

          If you’d like more information about Cider Days, visit their web site, http://www.ciderday.org/. Meanwhile, here are a couple of recipes that take advantage of the season’s cider bounty. Be sure to bow to an apple tree as you get ready to eat them; then go indoors and enjoy the cozy warmth and light of your house.

The Green Emporium (Courtesy of the Green Emporium)

The Green Emporium (Courtesy of the Green Emporium)

Cider Mussels Emporium

          This recipe comes from the fertile culinary mind of Michael Collins, chef at the Green Emporium in Colrain and a longtime fan of Cider Days. The restaurant has just reopened as a pizza/pasta parlor. Michael may have simplified his menu, but he hasn’t lost his creativity: he has a terrific new apple pizza!

Ingredients:

3 to 4 chopped shallots

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

2 cups hard cider

3 pounds mussels, cleaned and de-bearded (discard opened or cracked mussels)

1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (of your choice; Gorgonzola is nice here, or just plain blue cheese)

chopped parsley as needed for garnish

Instructions:

          Sauté the shallots in the olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Just before the shallots become translucent, pop in the garlic pieces, but be careful not to burn the garlic.

          Add the hard cider, and simmer the mixture until the cider is reduced in half.

          Add the mussels, and cover to steam until the mussels open. (This will only take a couple of minutes so be sure to check frequently.)  Take the pan off the heat, crumble the cheese over all, and transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with parsley. Serves 6 to 8.  

Michael Phillips at Cider Days (Courtesy of Carolyn Halloran/West County Independent)
Michael Phillips at Cider Days (Courtesy of Carolyn Halloran/West County Independent)

 Lost Nation Traditional Cider Pie

Michael Phillips serves a slice of this pie (indoors!) to his guests each winter at the end of his orchard wassailing ceremony.  He also recommends it for Thanksgiving and other special occasions.

The cider jelly required is a reduction of sweet cider. Boil 3 cups of cider until you have only 1/2 cup left; what remains is what you will need for this recipe.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 pinch salt

1/2 cup cider jelly

1/2 cup boiling water

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon melted butter

2 cups sliced apples

pastry for a 2-crust, 9-inch pie

Instructions:

         Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add the cider jelly and water, and blend. Stir in the egg and melted butter. Place the apple sices on the bottom pie crust in a pie plate, and top with the cider mixture. Put the top crust over all, cutting a few slashes in it. Bake for 40 minutes. Serves 6 to 8.