Just about three years ago I won a pie contest.
Yep. I did. Seriously. I still don't know what made me go to the trouble of entering, especially since I had never made a pie from scratch (i.e. homemade pie dough) before. The contest was held outside on what turned out to be quite a cold October day. I made Paul, my dear friend Amanda and then-9-month-old Emmett hang out outside for HOURS while deliberations were underway. Third, I won. The whole thing. I still can’t believe it. As nerdy as it sounds, and is, it was exhilarating! More so because of the shock. When they announced my name just after the first runner up it was as if everything was moving in slow motion and Chariots of Fire was playing in the background. I WISH I was kidding, but it’s true. It was amazing.
Nerdy in more than just my exhilaration at winning, I’m also a nerd in the kitchen, and competitive at that. So if I’m going to enter a contest, I want to win. As unlikely as it was that I could, I definitely tried my best. The contest was for the best apple pie so the only limitation was that it had to be apple. I researched apple pie recipes at length as well as how to make the best pie dough. I made my pie dough the weekend before – so I wouldn’t feel rushed on the day of the contest – and even invested in the peeler, corer, slicer that still gets a lot of use during apple season.
My research led me to an interesting ingredient, one that I had never heard of before. Boiled Cider. By the time I discovered it, it was too late for me to order it online and I didn’t know where to buy it in person. I decided to make it myself. As it turns out, boiled cider is hardly something you have to “make” at all. It’s just as the name would lead you to believe – Boiled. Cider. And the directions are as follows: put a gallon (or more) of apple cider in a large pot and boil it until it becomes the consistency of maple syrup.
It does take a few hours but very little of it is active time. You just have to watch it as you get to the very end and it is becoming syrupy so you can take it off the stove before it becomes too thick. Once it’s ready, add a tablespoon to your pie filling to give it that extra “Apple-y” flavor. You can use it in pancakes, cakes, and all kinds of savory dishes as well. I like to put a little in a salad dressing that I make with Dijon mustard and cider vinegar, or in pan sauce for chicken thighs or pork chops. Ever since I first made it three years ago, I’ve kept some in my refrigerator - where it stays good for months and months.
And now you know the secret to my “award winning” apple pie. Because there should be no secrets in delicious.