Apple molasses, sometimes known as boiled cider, is actually on the endangered-food-species list of the Slow Foods Ark. Its use can be dated back as far as the late 1600s, and as suggested by the name “molasses,” was commonly used in New England as an indigenous sweetener in baking. Sugar was a much more rare, expensive commodity.
These days, sugar is common, and cheap, and apple molasses is not. In fact, it’s difficult to even get your hands on raw, pure, unpasturized apple juice unless you make it yourself–as you want to be sure that you’re using apple juice or cider that does not have potassium sorbate or other anti-fungal additives in it.
If you can find pure apple juice or cider, or make it (check with the Amish or some of your local orchards), you should absolutely make apple molasses. Your Christmas baking will never be the same.
So how does one make apple molasses from cider? You’ll want to reduce it to between 1/7th to 1/10th of its volume by simmering it in a non-reactive, uncovered pot. It will darken and thicken as the liquid reduces. For every (US) gallon of cider, you will end up with about 2.28 cups – 1.6 of molasses, depending on the thickness you prefer. Oh, and skim the foam and impurities off the top as you go.
At 1/7th volume, the cider has the consistency of maple syrup, and can be used as a vegan substitute for honey, or even a cheaper alternative to real maple syrup (it goes great on pancakes!). You can pour a little of it into your homemade apple sauce to give it a more potent kick, or reconstitute it with a little hot water to make hot apple cider whenever you want it.
At 1/9 to 1/10th volume, the cider is very thick, like molasses. This super-thick product is sometimes known as apple jelly, and can be used as such, or substituted wherever you would use molasses traditionally. It will add a rich, smoky-caramelized tart, apple flavour to things and turn your old recipes on their heads. I’ve made Gingersnaps and caramels with it.