While you undoubtedly associate apple cider with fall, it’s highly possible you haven’t had the best cider drink that autumn offers: the cider slushie.
Slushies, which are essentially apple cider frozen in a machine, can be found from spring through fall at apple orchards across the country, and sometimes they make a fall appearance at coffee shops, like Reza’s Roast in Dayton, Ohio, and Krans Café in Bishop Hill, Illinois.
Fly Creek Mill and Orchard near Cooperstown, New York, uses a 130-year-old apple press to produce its sweet cider from at least five varieties of apples grown on-site. Instead of using heat to pasteurize the cider, it uses an ultraviolet light method that gives the cider a fresher taste. When the Snack Barn opens on Mother’s Day weekend, it begins selling three kinds of slushies — Cider Slush, Hard Cider Slush (using their own hard cider) and Apple Wine Slush — and offer them until Halloween. They also sell non-frozen cider drinks, like the Johnny Appleseed (half cider and half iced tea) and a cider float (cider, ginger ale and ice cream).
Bill Michaels, co-owner of Fly Creek, told HuffPost that last year it sold 5,000 12-ounce cider slushies (and gave away 1,302 free coupons). For the cider slushies, it doesn’t add anything to the mix — “nothing added, nothing taken away,” Michaels said.
If you want to make it yourself, we’ve got a recipe from the “Fly Creek Cider Mill Cookbook” (see the full recipe below). But Michaels warns that the consistency will be different from the kind served from a machine: “[It’s] more like a Sno-Cone than a slush right from the machine, though.”
First, on the stovetop, you need to make a syrup from sugar, fresh ginger, cloves and cinnamon sticks. Once the mixture cools, put it in a blender along with a local apple cider and ice, then blend. “This seemed the simplest for people at home to try,” Michaels said.
Across the country in Nebraska City, Nebraska, Arbor Day Farm’s Porter’s barbecue restaurant sells its cider slushie from April through November. Arbor Day grows several varieties of apples in its orchard and grinds them into cider. According to Porter’s executive chef, Jeff Miller, the Arbor Day Farm Slushie contains 50% Jonathan and either 50% Fuji or Red Delicious apples for a sweet-tart combination. “There’s no recipe,” Miller told HuffPost. “It’s just good apples.” He said the restaurant sells 6 to 8 gallons of slushies a day, especially during the fall.
Customers can order the slush with “the works” — a scoop of ice cream and caramel. And for those who want a kick, order the AppleJack Slushie: frozen cider mixed with Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey.
“The AppleJack Slushie seemed like an obvious thing to put together,” Miller said. “It works really well.” The alcohol is poured directly into the machine, not added separately. At home, he suggested freezing the cider (without alcohol) in ice cube trays. “Take them out and put them in a blender and just let it go,” he said. “You’ll have to scrape down the walls a few times, and you might have to add a little apple cider to get it moving. Or you could use apple cider and ice, but you’re going to dilute your flavor a little bit.” The result is a granita-like slushie. To booze-ify it, add your drink of choice into the blender and sprinkle nutmeg and cinnamon on top. “I like to tell people it’s really about your taste, not mine. It’s really what you like.”
Wood Orchard Market in Egg Harbor, Wisconsin, sells about 10 gallons of apple cider smoothies a day, which are essentially cider slushies with nonfat milk and a hint of vanilla. Wood Orchard also offers a non-cider cherry raspberry slushie that customers like to mix with the smoothie. “In the hot months — not that northeastern Wisconsin gets terribly hot — the smoothie constantly sells out,” Crista Kochanski, Wood Orchard’s owner, told HuffPost.
Crista Kochanski, Wood Orchard’s owner, recommended using a “true apple cider,” not apple juice, which is heavily filtered. “You’re getting more flavor in the cider because you’re not filtering out everything.”
Making the drink at home is easy: “As long as you have a blender and a little dash of vanilla, some type of dairy — milk, yogurt — just blend it together,” she said. (Nut milks work, too.) To spike it, Kochanski suggested pouring something cinnamon-based, like Fireball, into the mixture. “I think that would be phenomenal in the smoothie.”
Although you can make cider slushies in any season, the key is to use local apple cider, which means a visit to your orchard. “I think it goes hand in hand that people want to know that they’re getting the best product, and you’re not going to taste the best apple cider smoothie unless you’re really getting fresh apple cider in there,” Kochanski said.
Want to make your own? Try this recipe from Fly Creek.
Fly Creek Mill Frozen Apple Slushie
Makes 4 slushies
1. Combine the sugar with the cinnamon sticks, cloves and ginger in a small saucepan. Add the water and place over medium-high heat. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
2. When cool, strain through a fine mesh sieve, discarding the solids. At this point you can store the syrup, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 months.
3. Combine the cider with 1/2 cup of the syrup in a blender jar. Add chopped ice to fill the jar. Process until a slushie mixture is formed. Serve immediately.
NOTE: You will not use all of the syrup, but since it keeps, it is good to have on hand to make slushies or to use as a syrup for almost any breakfast treat or as a moistener for layer cakes.