You can’t tear me away from the kitchen lately. I’m telling you, fall is the greatest time to cook with the gentle chill in the air, the light, the sounds, the smells – it’s a true multi-sensory experience. And not only do I love cooking in the fall, I love shopping for the ingredients, too, recently doing a little orchard crawl to uncover the best apple cider in the area. We headed out on a brilliantly sunny day the weekend before Canadian Thanksgiving, coming home with 2 litres of the cloudy, ambrosial nectar. (Oh, and on Thanksgiving Monday, we bought another 2 litres of cider because we need to taste them all, apparently. Did I mention we have but a pipsqueak, European-style refrigerator? Mhm.) Ideas quickly began to flow for how we’d use it.
I was all about keeping it simple, thinking we should make mulled spiked cider, employ its sweetness and body in salad dressings or use it in baking. My boyfriend was all about braises, cocktails, reductions and infusions – such class!
When Canadian Thanksgiving weekend had finally rolled around, we had just finished our first litre, half of which is still sitting in the refrigerator as an apple cider reduction leftover from a gorgeous tray of roasted brussels sprouts. I also made a dressing for kale salad, which was scrumptious, but I wanted to get baking with it, deciding on homemade granola.
There is rarely a week in our house when granola is not in the cupboard, living in its devoted pop-top glass container. I usually sweeten granola using strictly maple syrup, but here, I’ve used mostly apple cider, discovering its inherent spiciness, sweetness and freshly picked flavour is just what my classic granola recipe needed.
Please note that low and slow is the name of the game when making a naturally sweetened granola recipe. I baked these trays at 285ºF – don’t go above that as the liquid needs time to evaporate. Your patience will be rewarded. I was beyond delighted with the results: an autumnal granola that tastes just as moreish by the handful as it does in a bowl with yogurt. The apple cider flavour doesn’t come through on top, but as a mellow, perfumed backbone supporting every crunchy morsel. I’m certain any hearty fruit cider, like pear, would work if you follow this recipe exactly (again, low and slow, please).
And while I’m here, I might as well spoil holiday and host gifts now: we’ve decided to package up homemade granola this year in brown kraft bags. It may even turn into a little breakfast bundle as my boyfriend works in specialty coffee and has a penchant for making marmalade to boot. I can’t think of a tastier food gift to make and give, or receive. During the extraordinarily busy holiday hosting season, a granola breakfast with endless coffee is sure to give you back your wings.
Baked for a food gift or made just for you, this healthy granola recipe will be a staple in your home this fall and winter. Saying this, don’t forget to stock up on apple cider while you can as somehow, we’re already halfway through October. However, if you do miss out, just stop by our house – we have a few litres to spare.
A Healthy Homemade Granola Recipe: Apple Cider Granola (Fruit Juice-Sweetened)
Naturally sweetened granola with tart and tangy apple cider, cinnamon, oats and walnuts. This will fill your home with the aromas of autumn and makes for a healthy breakfast, snack or dessert to boot. Refined sugar-free and gluten-free, if you use gluten-free rolled oats.
Makes 8 cups
6 cups quick-cooking or old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups raw walnuts, chopped
2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsweetened apple cider or apple juice
1/2 cup neutral oil such as avocado or olive oil (not extra-virgin) or melted coconut oil
2 Tbsp maple syrup
- Arrange oven racks to accommodate 2 trays. Preheat oven to 285ºF. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, combine oats, walnuts, cinnamon and salt. In a large glass measuring cup or medium bowl, combine apple cider or juice, oil and maple syrup; stir into oat mixture until fully combined. Divide between prepared baking sheets and press into a single layer.
- Add trays to top and bottom oven racks; bake for 30 minutes. Switch trays around (bottom to top; top to bottom) and bake for 35 minutes longer, or until evenly golden brown and dry. Cool completely. Store airtight at room temperature up to 3 weeks.