Cozy Up with Apple Cider Syrup

Apple Cider Syrup by A Little Yumminess

Here’s an easy little cooking project to start the new year that will sweeten up your pantry: old-fashioned apple cider syrup. It’ got all the cozy, sweet-tangy flavor of apples wrapped up in a gorgeously glossy, caramel-colored, drizzle-y package.

We love apple cider syrup as an alternative to the usual sweeteners because it satisfies our sugary cravings while packing in a lot of rich flavor. We’ve been loving this as an accompaniment to oatmeal and on our pancakes (mixed with maple syrup or on it’s own). It’s delicious swirled into yogurt or as a sugar substitute in our favorite muffin recipes. We’ve used it to sweeten our granola and have even called it into service in a sweet- sour reduction (alongside dijon mustard and apple cider vinegar) for pork chops. As I write this I’m imagining an apple-cider-salted-caramel dipping sauce for apples or pears, and apple cider syrup dappled on one of Anya’s Farmhouse Cheddar Muffins or brushed over the top of a tarte tatin. This would be a great foil for a sharp, salty cheese on a cheese plate on tucked into a grilled cheese sandwich. I’m officially drooling now!

Apple Cider Syrup

This one is so easy, I don’t think it even qualifies as a recipe. Buy a jug of apple cider. Bring the cider to a boil, then turn down the heat and let it simmer it slowly until you have a thick syrup. It will take anywhere from one to two hours. You don’t have to hover over it, but do give it stir every 20 minutes or so to avoid any scorching on the bottom of the pan.

That’s all there is to it. Starting with 8 cups of cider you will end up with about one to two cups of syrup depending if you want something the consistency of honey, or more like jam. It will keep in your refrigerator in a well sealed container for at least a month.

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Snack Attack (or Anytime) Granola

The three members of my family fall into different camps when it comes food —  sauciness, spiciness, saltiness — but a real point of solidarity in our family eating is our shared love for granola, especially with greek yogurt, fresh fruit and a good drizzle of honey. Needless to say, granola gets made and eaten often around here.

There’s not much prep time difference whether you make a little or a lot, so granola is a great recipe to scale up. It keeps well in the freezer, so make some to eat right away and stash some so you’ll always have something tasty and nutritious at the ready. We’ve happily eaten granola for dinner when we just couldn’t get it together to make anything else.

Since all that’s required is a little measuring and mixing and throwing it all on a baking sheet, it’s a great cooking project to do with kids. It makes for a fun playdate, too. Divvy up the ingredient list and invite some of friends around to make a mega batch that everyone can share. After putting together the granola base you can have some fun mixing in all sorts of goodies. You can also make loose granola or bars. The variations are endless.

Basic Granola Mix

1. Combine dry ingredients – 5 cups total assorted oats, seeds, nuts, grains (some ideas below). For a classic granola, we prefer at least half of the mixture to be oats.

2. Combine wet ingredients in a sauce pan over the stove, until sugar is fully dissolved and the mixture is syrupy.

  • 3/4 cup apple sauce
  • 2 TBL butter or vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup brown rice syrup (or corn syrup)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Spices (a basic mix would be: 2 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp ground ginger)

3. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together, making sure dry ingredients are well coated.

4. Spread into a thin layer (no more than about 1/2″) on cookie sheets. I line my cookie sheets with silicon baking mats which makes the clean up super easy. Alternatively you can spray your cookie sheets with a little cooking spray just to make sure nothing sticks. Bake at 375 degrees until the mix starts to turn golden (about 30 minutes), tossing with a wooden spoon and turning your pan once or twice to ensure even baking.

5. When the granola is approaching your desired golden-ness, turn the heat down to 200 degrees and continue drying out the granola so that it will be nice and crispy without too much more browning. I usually give it another 20-25 minutes, checking and tossing every 10 minutes or so. Granola will crisp as it cools, so at this point you’re just gauging moistness. You want it to be reasonably dry to the touch. Luckily if you take it out too early and you find it’s not as crisp as you like, you can always throw it back into a low oven to continue to dry and crisp.

6. When your granola is golden and crisp to your liking add your final mix-ins including chopped dried fruit, coconut or chocolate chips. When cool, store in an air tight container or freeze granola you wont be eating right away.

Mix-Ins, a few of our favorites:

  • Nuts: Sliced Almonds; Chopped Pistachios, Hazelnuts, Pecans or Walnuts
  • Dried Fruit: Raisins, Cranberries, Blueberries, Dates, Flaked Coconut, Apricots, Mangoes, Apples, Cherries, Banana Chips
  • Seeds/Grains: Oats, Sesame Seeds, Golden Flax Seed, Sunflower Seeds, Amaranth, Wheat Germ, Oat Bran
  • Spices: Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger
  • Other stuff:  chocolate chips!

Notes:

  • Mix in chocolate chips, flaked coconut and dried fruit after baking. [If you like toasted coconut like me, I think it’s easier to control the brown-ness by toasting it separately in a pan vs baking it along with the base.]
  • If you want to keep the base nut free, toast the nuts separately over the stove and mix in after baking.

Granola Bar Variation

With our new lunchbox routine we decided to try a more portable granola. To make bars, reduce the dry ingredients by about a cup, so that the wet ingredients coat everything a bit more.

  1. Toast the dry ingredients (350 for 30 minutes or until lightly golden) before mixing with the wet ingredients.
  2. Combine wet ingredients in a pan over the stove until the sugar is dissolved and mixture is syrupy.
  3. Combine the pre-toasted dry ingredients with the wet ingredients. Add mix-ins including dried fruit, coconut or chocolate chips.
  4. Spread on cookie sheet and press lightly to compact the granola mixture. Make sure you have a nice even layer. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
  5. Turn down the oven to 200 degrees and let crisp for another 25-30 minutes. When cool cut into bars. If bars aren’t crisp when you start cutting them, you can return them to a low oven for a another 10-15 minutes.