Thompson Creek Organics in Applegate grows a variety of apples and presses the majority of its harvest into cider sold at farmers markets and several local grocery stores. - Bob Pennell

Purely Delicious

To add value to her home-grown, heirloom apples, Kirsten Shockey looked to a New England tradition.

Boiled cider was the original business plan for Mellonia Farms, the Applegate property Shockey owns with husband, Christopher. Mellonia went in another direction — fermented foods — but Shockey still reduces into syrup some of the cider produced every fall with the family's hand-cranked press.

"It's just pure apple," says Shockey. "It's just so delicious."

She plans to share the simple but little-known method next week, along with techniques for extending and preserving fall's quintessential fruit as juice, sauce, chutney and butter. Participants in the Thursday, Oct. 4, class will taste Shockey's dishes at The Right Plan kitchen in Medford and take home recipes.

"Of all the fruits ... to me, the apple is the most versatile," she says.

Shockey will delve deeper during a Nov. 3 class at Mellonia on Thompson Creek Road. Participants will learn about fermenting cider into an alcoholic beverage and eventually vinegar, plus they will take home a gallon of cider, either sweet or beginning to ferment. The cost is $45; time to be announced. Register at or call 541-846-1262.

It takes a lot of cider to make syrup: About a gallon yields just over a pint of concentrated liquid that contains about 67 percent sugar, says Shockey. And it takes some time: about half a day for that quantity, although the process goes quicker in a pan with a large surface area, she adds. Shockey took the idea from 1973's "The American Cider Book: The Story of America's Natural Beverage," by Vrest Orton.

The resulting syrup can be used like maple syrup, she says. Drizzle it on pancakes or ice cream or brush it onto meats and vegetables for a sweet glaze.

Short of boiling cider for syrup or drinking it outright, there are plenty of ways to use this elixir of fall in the kitchen. Cooking apples in cider instead of water produces applesauce with less added sugar. Simmer steel-cut oats in apple cider to infuse more of the fruit's flavor. In marinades, cider tenderizes meats and mitigates strong flavors of game.

Here are a few more ways to cook with apple cider:

  • Vinaigrette for salads — Whisk together 1/2 cup canola oil, 1/2 cup apple cider, 2 tablespoons cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Brines and marinades — For a basic brine, mix 11/2 gallons water, 1/2 gallon cider and 2 cups kosher salt. Use it to brine chicken, turkey and pork. Add apple cider to marinades instead of soy sauce, citrus juices and liquids other than oil.
  • Roasting vegetables and meat — Cook just about any vegetable in apple cider before roasting. For ribs: Season 2 pounds of any kind of ribs with garlic salt and black pepper. Place in a baking dish and pour over 2 cups apple cider (enough to come halfway up in the pan). Cover and roast at 325 F for 2 to 21/2 hours or until tender. Uncover, brush with barbecue sauce and roast for another 15 minutes.

Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email McClatchy News Service contributed to this story.

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