Dateline: 26 October 2015
My Aunt Carolyn in Kennebunkport sent me the Bangor Daily News article, Liquid Gold: Apple Cider Syrup From A Maine Orchard, a few weeks ago. That prompted me to remember that in the past I wrote about Boiled Cider Syrup at my WhizbangCider.com web site, wherein I explained that I first learned about boiled cider syrup in October of 1977 (yes, I know the exact month and year). And it prompted me to remember that, ever since then, I've wanted to make my own boiled cider syrup. But I never have. And I decided that, seeing as it is cider-making season here in upstate New York, and a good apple year, and I have all the necessary equipment, it was about time I finally got around to making myself some of this old-timey "apple molasses."
If you are interested in knowing more about boiled cider syrup, be sure to read This Informative and Insightful Article at the Slow Food, USA web site.
Which makes me think...
I reckon that contemplating the production of my own boiled cider syrup for 37 years would make me a very Slow Food enthusiast. Good things take time, eh?
I started with five or six gallons of home-pressed apple cider. Maybe it was seven. Or maybe eight. I didn't really keep track. It was in two plastic pails on the back patio.
The boiling started outdoors in a big stainless steel pot over a propane-fueled turkey fryer. I got the pot up to a good boil, periodically skimmed off the froth that formed on the surface, and added more cider, a little at a time.
I boiled outdoors for several hours, until my propane ran out. Then I moved the big pot to the kitchen and boiled a few more hours. All the windows steamed up. With the wood stove going in the room next to the kitchen, and all the moisture in the air, and my house being kind of smallish, it was like a sauna.
As the cider boiled down, the boiling bubbles became smaller, just like when boiling maple sap to make maple syrup. The process is pretty much exactly the same. Just boil away excess water until you have a concentrated syrup.
I ended up with 3 quarts of boiled-down cider syrup. It looks exactly like you can see in the above picture. Reddish dark, and syrupy thick.
I expected the flavor to be sweet, sort of like maple syrup is sweet. But boiled cider syrup is not what I would describe as sweet. My first impression was that it's got a tangy, acidic flavor, with just a touch of sweet. The Slow Food article describes it as having a slightly smoky, burnt flavor. Yep. That certainly applies. "Pucker" is another appropriate word associated with boiled cider syrup. It's a complex flavor, for sure.
My youngest son, who has worked in a high-class French restaurant, tasted my boiled cider syrup and said it has umami.
Umami? What's umami?
Well, if you don't know (I didn't), umami is the 5th basic taste. After sweet, sour, bitter, and salty, there is umami. It so happens that umami has always been a basic taste, but it has only been discovered and recognized as a basic taste in recent history. You can learn more about it At This Link.
After reading all about umami on the internet, I'm not sure it applies to boiled cider syrup. But I'll be the first to admit that I really don't know umami.
I do, however, love the word. Umami. I mean, it's simply beautiful. Umami is such a delightful word that, without realizing what I was doing, I found myself singing it to the tune of that old Dean Martin song, Volare. Click Here to listen to Dean Martin sing Volare.
Umami can be substituted for the word "volare" and the song takes on a whole new meaning. I don't know what the meaning is (I never did understand that song), but it's new.
By the way, I'll have you know I sound just like Dean Martin when I sing Umami. But, to be perfectly honest, I only know seven words of the song: "Umami... Oh Oh... Oh Oh Oh Oh."
Where was I...
It may well be that boiled cider syrup does have some umami, along with numerous varied nuances of sweet, sour, and bitter (but definitely not salty). Like I said, it's complex.
There are numerous ways to use boiled cider syrup. We are experimenting with it now. I like it drizzled over vanilla ice cream, and it's good mixed with yogurt and granola. It was also good on vegetable stir fry over rice.
I'm thinking it might be good on different meats, kind of like chutney is good with meats. Actually, the flavor reminds me of some apple chutney Marlene once made. That was a complex flavor too. I think there is umami in chutney.
So that's my story about making boiled cider syrup... finally!
I have a feeling that, as we experiment with, and find new applications for, this unique syrup, the three quarts will be gone by next cider season. And now that I've made it once, and know how easy it is to make, I'll be making it again.
Has anyone reading this ever made boiled cider syrup?
And, if so, did you think it had umami?