All Things ConCidered

To see how cider is made, watch this seven-minute video.

THIS WEEKEND marks the official celebration of the 26th annual Franklin County CiderDays, a three-day festival of workshops, tastings, and salons at orchards and cideries in western Massachusetts.

Tiny Chestnut crabapples can bring a distinctive flavor to cider blends. (Russell Steven Powell)

Like most public events, CiderDays has been reconfigured this year due to the pandemic, with a self-guided Cider Trail 2020. Many of the venues will be holding special CiderDays activities, and the weekend forecast is for unseasonably warm weather.

Among the participating orchards and cideries are Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield, Phoenix Fruit Farm in Belchertown, Pine Hill Orchards in Colrain, Ragged Hill Orchard and Ragged Hill Cider, in West Brookfield.

Many New England orchards press or sell their own cider, and a number of them are making their own hard ciders and serving at their taprooms. Consult our new Cider section of the website to learn more about some places that specialize in cider, fresh and hard.

If you can’t make it out to the orchard but want to learn more about cider, a good place to start is Ria Windcaller’s popular CiderChat podcasts. Active in CiderDays since the beginning and now a part of its leadership team, Windcaller has produced nearly 250 episodes on apples and cider!

Here is last week’s podcast, featuring a history of New England apples by Russell Steven Powell, executive director of the New England Apple Association, and author of America’s AppleApples of New England, and this weblog:

While you are listening, see below for a recipe for Hot Mulled Cider.

For good measure, Erin Jeanne McDowell’s recipe for Baked Apple Cider Doughnuts appeared in today’s New York Times. We’ve simplified it here for ease of preparation, using the shortened form of “donut” commonly used by consumers and orchards.


Cider-making at New Salem Preserves, New Salem, Massachusetts, during the 2016 CiderDays. (Russell Steven Powell)

1¾ c flour

1¼ t baking powder

¾ t salt

2 t cinnamon

½ t nutmeg

1 c butter (2 sticks), at room temperature

¾ c brown sugar

¾ c sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 t vanilla extract

½ c apple cider

Heat oven to 350°F. 

Lightly grease two 6-cavity donut pans (or a 12-cup muffin tin) with nonstick spray. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, 1 t cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream 10 T butter, brown sugar, and 1/4 c sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and mix until well blended. Beat in vanilla extract.

Add flour mixture and stir. Pour apple cider slowly and mix until well blended. 

A bin of pomace is all that remains after the juice has been squeezed out of apples in the racks behind it at Gould Hill Orchards, Hopkinton, New Hampshire. The pomace can be used to feed livestock. (Russell Steven Powell)

Spoon batter into prepared pans, filling them about 2/3 full. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through, until donuts are evenly golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the thickest portion comes out clean. 

(If making muffins, divide batter evenly between the prepared cups and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, rotating halfway through.)

While the doughnuts bake, in a small bowl whisk together remaining 1/2 c sugar and 1 t cinnamon.

In a separate small bowl, melt the remaining 6 T butter.

Let donuts cool for 5 minutes, then remove from pans, brush with melted butter and drop in cinnamon sugar until they are coated. 

Serve immediately, or let cool to room temperature.

Hot Mulled Cider

2 qts apple cider

¼ c maple syrup or brown sugar

2 t cinnamon

½ t allspice

6 whole cloves

¼ t nutmeg

1 cinnamon stick

Slowly heat to a simmer. Allow flavors to blend for at least 20-30 minutes before serving.