November 18, 2012

Boiled Cider Pie

Thanksgiving is one of New England's great gifts to American culture. Originating in Puritan feast days, the holiday gradually spread across the country bringing turkey, stuffing and pies with it.

Modern Americans eat a wide variety of pies on Thanksgiving, many of them unrelated to the holiday's origins in New England. Let's face it, the Puritans weren't eating coconut cream or key lime pie, so a few years ago I wrote about the obscure pies of old New England, like squash pie, mincemeat pie, and boiled cider pie.

At the time I had never eaten or made a boiled cider pie, but this year in honor of Thanksgiving I decided to give it a try. I was really happy with the results.

Boiled cider is not something you see in many 21st century pantries. Its use has been recorded as early as the 1670s in western Massachusetts, and it was a common sweetener in the Colonial era. It makes sense. Molasses and sugar were expensive imports, but apple cider was locally produced and inexpensive. You can still buy boiled cider at country stores in northern New England and online from the King Arthur store, but I decided to make my own using instructions from an old Yankee Magazine cookbook.


It was easy, but took a long time. I poured a gallon of cider into a large pot, and then boiled it at high heat until it was reduced to a single cup of gelatinous goop. Even though I boiled it over high heat it still took around two and a half hours! I didn't need to stir it much until the end when it was really getting thick.
Boiling, boiling, boiling...
... Still boiling more than two hours later!

What I had after two hours and thirty minutes of boiling.
After it cooks down to a cup, let it cool. I put it in the refrigerator but I don't know if this was the smartest move. The boiled cider became almost completely solid which made it harder to use in the recipe. I would recommend letting it cool on the counter or maybe not boiling it down as much. The cider that is sold commercially is more syrupy and less goopy than what I made.

There are a few boiled cider pies floating around on the web, but I liked this one from Wood's Cider Mill in Vermont, which has been owned by the same family for seven generations. They make and sell boiled cider so I figured they must know what they're talking about. Also, their recipe is simple and really focuses on the boiled cider as the main ingredient. I baked the pie for an hour, which is 10 minutes longer than the recipe instructs, but that could just be my stove.

Sugar, eggs, milk, a little flour, and boiled cider. Mix it well because that boiled cider is thick!

It's looking a little  like pumpkin pie, but don't be fooled.

Boiled cider pie - sweet, tart, goopy and historic!
The pie came out great. Its consistency is similar to a custard or pumpkin pie, and although it's really sweet the sweetness is cut by the cider's tartness. If you like cider, sugar and pie crust (and who doesn't?) you will like this pie. It's like autumn, New England, and three centuries of history all in one dessert.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

1 comment:

Alyson (New England Living) said...

I've never heard of such a thing! I may have to try that! It sounds delicious.