Boiled Apple Cider (aka Apple Cider Syrup) takes everything yummy about apple cider and concentrates it to a thick syrup. It's easy to make, and gives you the secret ingredient you need to take all your apple treats to the next level of flavor!
[October, 2022: I've reworked the recipe and updated this post with new pictures. Enjoy!]
Why this recipe works
- Making apple cider syrup is easy to make: just down boiling apple cider until it thickens
- You can flavor the boiled cider with additions like cinnamon, vanilla, or orange zest
- There are lots of ways to use apple syrup in your baking
Autumn is my favorite season, especially in the culinary sense (the other senses also…I love New England fall foliage!). No other season is so identified with flavor.
(Yes, we get the picture).
Apple pies practically scream autumn. All those baking spices mixed with the wonderfully sweet tart taste of apples. But can you make apple pie even better? That's a big yes, if you use a certain secret ingredient…Boiled Apple Cider (aka Apple Cider Syrup).
What you need
Fresh apple cider: You don't need any special ingredients to make a boiled cider recipe. Just pure fresh unfiltered apple cider, preferably organic and definitely preservative-free. And alcohol-free, not the hard stuff.
Flavorings: You can keep your boiled cider plain, or add flavorings like 2 or 3 cinnamon sticks, a fresh vanilla bean (split lengthwise), some orange zest, or even ¼ cup of whisky or rum to your cider at the beginning of the simmering process (the alcohol cooks out).
How to make boiled cider at home
So how do you make apple cider syrup? It's just as easy as it sounds. Just know that it's going to take a few hours to make it, so plan accordingly.
Step 1: Transfer cider to a pot
Take fresh, unfiltered apple cider and pour it into a heavy pot along with your preferred flavorings (photo 1).
After bringing the cider to a boil, reduce the heat to keep the cider at a simmer. You should see small bubbles.
Step 2: Monitor the cider
One way to measure your progress is to use a skewer to see how far down the cider has evaporated (photo 2). When it's done, the volume will be about ⅛th its original height.
Here's the boiled cider after 2 and 3 hours of simmering (photo 3):
Step 3: Check for doneness
The cider will be ready when you stir it and dark copper-colored bubbles form, covering the entire surface (photo 4). If you were to smear a small amount on a plate, it will have the consistency of warm, runny honey.
Boiled apple cider thickens as it cools, so don't over-cook it. Once you've achieved the right consistency, remove it from the heat and strain it through a fine mesh strainer into a canning jar to remove any impurities.
Let the jar cool to room temperature, then cover and store in the refrigerator. It should keep indefinitely.
Questions asked and answered
Here are some questions you might have...
Boiling cider evaporates the water in much the same way as how maple syrup is made, and the final product will be ⅛ of the original volume. So, a ½ gallon of fresh cider will give you about 1 cup of apple syrup and will take about 3 to 4 hours to make. You can also double the recipe to one gallon which will yield about 2 cups and will take 5 to 6 hours to reduce.
If you're starting with ½ gallon of apple cider, a 4-quart heavy duty pot is fine. Starting with one gallon will require at least a 5-quart pot. Either way, it's best to use an enamel-coated cast iron pot or Dutch oven. According to one commenter on King Arthur Baking, don't use a cast-iron pot unless it's enamel coated. Otherwise, the iron can infuse into the syrup and ruin it.
According to King Arthur Baking, yes! You can reduce one gallon of unfiltered cider in a covered slow cooker over 2 to 3 days. You'll still have to stir it every 1 to 2 hours to keep it from scorching, so it's best to turn off the slow cooker overnight.
Rather than going by temperature, I actually go by time and volume. Once the cider gets down to about ⅛th its initial volume (½ gallon takes me about 3 hours at a low simmer), that’s when I take it off the heat. You can also start testing how thick the syrup is getting on a plate every 15 min for the last hour or so of boiling - you want it to have the consistency of runny honey.
Pro Tip#1: Uses for boiled apple cider
There are so many ways that you can use boiled cider.
Try putting just ¼ cup into your favorite recipe for apple pie. Your friends and family won’t know how you managed to pack so much flavor into a pie crust!
Beyond apple pies, there are so many ways to use apple syrup. Here are some examples:
- Drizzle it onto cakes, ice cream, pancakes, or oatmeal (like you would maple syrup)
- Make a sweet glaze with powdered sugar to drizzle onto muffins, cookies, or scones
- Make a savory glaze with whole grain mustard to brush on chicken or meat before and after roasting
- Even mix it with water to reconstitute it back into apple juice. Just add 1 tablespoon boiled cider to ¾ cup water, hot or cold
I’m telling you, making boiled apple cider is going to take your fall baking to the next level!
Pro Tip#2: What might go wrong
I had the same strange experience twice while boiling down apple cider. After reducing it to ⅛ of the original volume, the cider separated into a watery layer over a layer of sediment instead of getting thick like honey.
I hadn't noticed that both times I was using cider that had been filtered and contained preservatives to maintain freshness. When I purchased unfiltered, preservative-free, organic apple cider, it reduced beautifully. The moral of this story: use the good stuff for apple syrup and leave the rest for drinking.
Lots of flavor for very little effort
Do yourself a favor on a crisp, fall day - boil down some apple cider to have on hand as your secret fall flavor enhancer. Not only will you take the flavor of your favorite apple dishes to the next level, you’ll perfume your home with the wonderful scent of apples.
Better still, give as a gift. It's a thoughtful way of sharing fall with friends and family. Be sure to include some how-to-use-it suggestions and recipes. Feel free to use my suggestions above!
I’m busy planning my fall baking agenda, and I’m sure this delicious secret ingredient will be well utilized!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
Cooking with fruits and jams in your baking repertoire adds a natural sweetness that can't be matched by artificial means. And, there are so many ways to use them (and not just in pie).
It's time to find fun ways to include fruit in your desserts!
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Easy Homemade Boiled Apple Cider Syrup
- 4-quart heavy saucepan not cast iron (unless enamel coated)
- ½ gallon apple cider, unfiltered and preservative-free, organic if possible
- flavorings, as desired, see Recipe Notes
- In a large heavy pot, bring the apple cider to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to keep the cider at a simmer. You should see small bubbles.
- Using a skewer, mark the level of the cider. Continue to mark the level on the skewer each hour.
- Simmer the cider for about 3 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. Adjust the heat down slowly as needed as the cider is reduced so that it doesn't boil too fast. During the last hour of simmering, stir every 15 minutes, checking for doneness.
- The cider will be ready when you stir it and dark copper-colored bubbles form, covering the entire surface. You can also check by using your skewer - the cider will boil down to about ⅛th of its original volume. Finally, if you smear a small amount on a plate, it should have the consistency of warm, runny honey. The cider will thicken as it cools, so don't over-cook it.
- Once you've achieved the right consistency, remove the boiled cider from the heat and strain it through a fine mesh strainer into a canning jar to remove any impurities. You should have about 1 cup of boiled cider.
- Storage instructions: Let the jar cool to room temperature, then cover and store in the refrigerator. It should keep indefinitely.