This pie is really something special — and I bet you already have the ingredients on hand.
It turns out that, while I am a very enthusiastic pie maker, I am not very good at it. I have seen a very wide gamut of pie failures over my baking career. Overcooked and cracked crusts, soggy bottoms, burnt edges, foul soup inside a crust - I've been there. And this isn't as isolated as you'd think. These are all common failures in one's journey to a perfect pie, and we can learn from them. So join me, and let's get to problem solving.
During the holiday season last year I made three 23cm pies for two people and had to call for backup the next day. Upon arriving at the table, my friends eyed the strange, beige pie sitting next to the pecan with suspicion.
It was boiled cider pie, I explained, a “New England thing”. Shockingly, this didn’t help at all, but I promised that if they tried a bite, they’d like it.
Turns out, I was right; the boiled cider pie disappeared first, well before the cranberry streusel and even the pecan.
If you’ve never had boiled cider pie before, it’s custard pie flavoured with apple cider that has been boiled down into a thick, sweet-tart syrup.
Traditional recipes are double-crusted and super sweet, but mine makes a balanced, surprisingly light single-crust pie. Grated apples and a generous squeeze of lemon provide some welcome tartness and keep the filling from tipping over into toothache territory.
It’s the perfect foil to the usual pie suspects — sweet potato, pecan, apple — and contrasts nicely with a heavy, rich dinner.
Best of all, boiled cider is the chillest possible custard pie; blind baking the crust is completely optional, and the custard comes together in 5 minutes in one bowl.
Boiled Cider Pie (adapted from the James Beard Foundation)
Note: This recipe is written for a 23cm (9") pie. To make the cute little 15cm (6") pie you see above, I halved the custard ingredients and baked for 35-40 minutes. If you’re making a small pie, do not skip the blind-baking step.
- 4 cups fresh or sparkling apple cider
- Pie dough for a single-crust pie (or a thawed, pre-made pie crust)
- 3 large eggs
- 4 tablespoons brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons butter (salted or unsalted), melted
- Juice of half a lemon (about 3 tbsp)
- 2 tart apples (Granny Smith or similar), peeled, cored and coarsely grated
- Pinch of salt (if using unsalted butter)
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Pour the cider into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until syrupy, at least an hour; you should have just about one cup. Let cool. (This can be done a day ahead if needed.)
- Roll out your pie crust and fit into a 23cm pie plate; trim overhang to 2.5cm, fold under, and crimp. If blind-baking, prick all over with a fork.
- Preheat oven to 190C and adjust a rack to the lower third. Transfer pie crust to the freezer to chill while the oven heats, at least 30 minutes.
- Make the filling: In a large bowl, beat the eggs together thoroughly. Whisk in 1 cup of boiled cider, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, melted butter, and lemon juice; stir in apples. Taste and add more seasoning — salt, sugar, lemon juice — if needed. Set aside.
- (Optional) If blind-baking the crust, line with baking paper and dried beans or pie weights and transfer to the hot oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the weights and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until lightly browned all over. Allow to cool for 30 minutes, or until just warm to the touch, before adding the custard.
- Pour the custard into the crust, sprinkle with nutmeg and the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, and bake until set, 45-50 minutes. Turn the oven off, open the door slightly, and leave the pie for another 45 minutes to an hour. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely; refrigerate overnight if you have time. Serve cold or at room temperature.
I really hope you give boiled cider pie a shot. It’s easy, delicious, and just different enough to impress.