Piper Davis has a sweet spot for cider. Each fall, she and her extended family gather at their orchard in southeastern Washington for apple-pressing parties, lugging home big jugs of homemade cider afterward. “It’s like drinking a fresh apple,” says Davis, co-owner and cuisine director of Grand Central Bakery (founded by her mom) in Portland and Seattle. “It’s bright, but complex. There’s life in it.”
That complexity has broad applications in cooking too. “Cider plays the role of the wine, the added sugar, the stock,” says Davis, who coauthored The Grand Central Baking Book (Ten Speed Press, 2009). “It touches a lot of bases.”
Davis recommends hitting farmers’ markets and grocery stores in the fall for cider that’s been pressed as recently as possible (she prefers unpasteurized). Then use it in everything from salad to stew—and some amazing doughnuts.
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The essence of cider
To concentrate cider’s flavor, Davis boils it down until it’s halfway to syrup. She uses this reduction in doughnuts, salad dressing, and much more.
Make it. Boil 8 cups of fresh, unfiltered apple cider in a 5- to 6-qt. pot over high heat, stirring occasionally, until it’s reduced to 2 cups, about 40 minutes. “A ratio of 4 to 1 is a good place to start,” says Davis, “but if you want a more intense flavor, you could take it further. You want the flavor to be concentrated but still bright.” Let cool. Stir it before using. Makes 2 cups, and lasts up to 1 month chilled or 6 months frozen.
Use it. Davis blends the con-centrated cider into cocktails; brushes it over pork, chicken, and even fish (especially salmon) for a glaze; and stirs it into apple pie filling. She also reduces it even more to a true syrup for drizzling over vanilla ice cream. Any extra goes into the freezer to bring out again in the winter.
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Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder
“This is a grown-up braise—a company braise,” says Davis. “It’s a technique more than a recipe.” The keys to that technique: cooking the meat in cider with one set of seasonings, straining and reducing the liquid, and then adding fresh vegetables toward the end. The cider’s acidity tenderizes the meat, and its sweetness balances the savoriness of the pork. “I don’t think anything goes better with pork than apples. There’s a reason it’s a classic combination.”
Davis advises, “Use a pot that holds the roast snugly to minimize the amount of liquid covering it and get a concentrated flavor.”
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Glazed Cider Doughnuts
Concentrated cider flavors these doughnuts inside and out. Cakey yet crisp, they are Davis’s adaptation of a recipe from her friend Julie Richardson, owner of Portland’s Baker & Spice. You’ll need a 2 3/4-in. doughnut cutter or 2 biscuit cutters (a 3 3/4-in. one for the doughnuts plus a 1/2-in. one for the holes).
“The thin blade of an offset spatula makes it easier to lift the dough off the board,” says Davis.
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Radicchio Waldorf Salad with Cider Dressing
Crisp bites of bitter radicchio make an excellent match for dressing sweetened with reduced cider. “This would also be great with matchsticks of sharp, nutty cheddar cheese, like Beecher’s Flagship,” Davis says.