Maine Apple Sunday: 3 new ways to enjoy fresh fall apples, cider

I was discouraged when I woke up this past Sunday to the sound of rain. My boyfriend was tethered to the apartment for the day, doing freelance work, but I’d hoped to tear him away for an orchard visit to celebrate Maine Apple Sunday. The sky cleared, but his schedule didn’t, so I headed out on my own to see what kind of apple-related trouble I could get myself into.

I ended up at Conant Apple Orchards in Etna, and I didn’t find any trouble, but I did find Maine Apple Sunday. The place was bustling with activity, from tables handing out samples of Pealer’s Pickles and apples topped with caramel sauce and whipped cream (I brought home a jar of sweet Garlic Slices, and I can’t recall a single time in my life I have refused caramel sauce) to face-painting. They also had a very reasonable price on pick-your-own, and I hadn’t been apple-picking since I was a little girl, so I grabbed a bag and headed up into the orchard. I came back down with a mixed bag of Macs, Cortlands, Red and Yellow Delicious, and even one single Empire — the Empire trees had been descended upon by other pickers like a swarm of locusts, leaving nothing but a few spoiled drops in their wake.

Armed with those, a sense of accomplishment, and a half-gallon of fresh cider, I was eager to get back to the kitchen. I can’t remember how many times I’ve heard mention of the fall favorite, apple cider doughnuts, but while I’ve never tried one, I have long been a fan of my mom, Barbara’s, doughnut muffins. Combining the two for a cidery twist on Mom’s recipe seemed like the perfect way to start a crisp early fall morning. Armed also with chicken wings from Common Wealth Farm in Unity, I decided to work on a new wing recipe for the autumn season. Finally, I’ve been thinking about pulled pork for a while, so I figured why not see what cider and apples could do for that dish, as well? The results were delicious, and I hope they become favorites in your home, as they have in mine.

Mini Apple Cider Doughnut Muffins

  • 1 large apple, peeled and cored
  • 1 c. apple cider (plus 1/2c. for dipping)
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter (softened)
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. each ground nutmeg, ginger, clove
  • cinnamon sugar to coat

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease or line a muffin tin. Peel and core apple, and cut into small chunks. In a small saucepan, combine apple and cider, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer until apples are cooked down to an almost applesauce-like consistency. (You can mash them if they don’t break up as much as you’d like. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars until well-combined. Add eggs, vegetable oil, vanilla and milk and blend well. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices until well aerated. Add flour mixture to wet mixture a little at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Divide batter among the muffin tins, filling each almost all the way to the top. Bake 8 minutes*, or until lightly browned and springy to the touch, and a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes away clean. Dip the top of each muffin into cider quickly, shaking off excess, and then into cinnamon sugar to coat.

*8 minutes for a mini muffin tin; for a standard muffin pan, it will probably take 12 minutes, 16 for jumbo. Be sure to keep an eye on them, because ovens may vary slightly.

Hot Apple Cider Chicken Wings

  • 10-12 large chicken wings, halved
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. cayenne powder
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 2 apples (peeled and chopped)
  • 4 shallots, chopped
  • 1 c. apple cider
  • 2 tsp. balsamic or black vinegar

Heat olive oil in a skillet. Sprinkle wings on both sides with salt, pepper and a little bit of cayenne. Sear until skin is crisped and remove to a bowl; make sure your kitchen is well-ventilated, because the air got a little hostile in ours! Add the butter to the pan, along with the shallots. When the shallots begin to soften, add cayenne, cinnamon, brown sugar, maple syrup, cider, apples and vinegar. Cook down until apples are completely softened, adding more cider if necessary, and then return the wings to the pan and cover them with the sauce. Finish the wings in the sauce and serve hot.

Apple Cider Pulled Pork

  • 2 lbs pork
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 3 apples, cored and sliced (skin on)
  • 2 c. apple cider
  • 1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 c. ketchup, divided
  • 2 tbsp. whole grain mustard
  • 1 tbsp. molasses
  • 2 tbsp. Worchestershire sauce
  • 5 whole garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp sriracha (or your favorite hot sauce, to taste)
  • salt & pepper to taste

In the bottom of a crock pot, place onions and apple slices. Place pork (I used ribs, because that was what I found the best deal on when I was shopping, but you can use a roast or loin) on top of the apples and onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. To the pot, add cider, vinegar, 1/2 c. ketchup, mustard, molasses, Worchestershire, garlic, and maple syrup. Cook on high for about 4 hours, or until fork-tender. Remove pork to a dish to shred with two forks, and strain liquid into a saucepan. To the liquid, add remaining ketchup, brown sugar and sriracha, and reduce by half. When the sauce has reduced and thickened, and the pork is shredded, return the pork to the sauce and serve on your favorite roll, with a spicy garlic dill pickle!

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Fia Fortune

About Fia Fortune

Fia Fortune is a home cook who enjoys gardening, creating recipes for her two blogs, cooking for herself and her boyfriend, and trying to keep up with their blended family of four cats.