Chefs have long extolled wine’s versatility in the kitchen. No doubt you know to add a splash of red or white to braises, sautés, and even marinades to impart depth of flavor. Consider apple cider, then, as wine’s close culinary kin. Pour this sweet nectar—traditionally, an unfiltered blend of multiple apple varietals—into a range of hardy fall preparations, and you’ll be rewarded with nuanced, even elegant, dishes that highlight the mood and harvest of the season.
Of course, an old standby like cider doughnuts is surely a headliner for the beverage’s utility. Just mix a cider reduction with spices into a batter, and fry. Once you taste them, you’ll discover that the crisp, toothsome rings have nothing in common with the lifeless rounds from national doughnut chains. And these doughnuts are so easy to make that they’ll help you to conquer your fear of frying.
Cider is equally adept in the savory side of the kitchen. Add it to a brine for roast pork loin, and the exceedingly lean cut becomes succulent with robust layers of flavors. Cider is also great for quick-braising shellfish: Sweat onions or shallots, and then steam clams or mussels in an inch or so of cider until they just open so that the briny and sweet flavors meld. And capturing the spirit of autumn in a saucepan can be as simple as reducing cider to a glazy consistency and tossing in roasted root vegetables so that the browned pieces become sweet, just like cider itself.