The Delicious Story of the Apple Cider Donut

There is nothing more quintessential autumn than the apple cider donut. A popular delicacy in apple orchards and cider houses throughout New England, establishments from the big chain donut shops to Trader Joe’s have tried to capture the magic of these delicious fried rings. How did this cake become a symbol of cooler temperatures, and how did the leaves change to brilliant shades of red and gold? Let’s take a look at the history of the famous treat.

There are different variations of the fried dough around the world, from the Italian ciambelle to the Spanish churros. Donuts, as we know them in the United States, date back to American settlers and their fall slaughter season. Without refrigeration, people prepared for the winter by slaughtering, preserving, and storing meat. They found a creative way to use the abundance of leftover animal fat for frying, often mixing apples from the recent harvest with batter to create an autumnal treat. Call it an early version of the apple cider donut, but it would be a couple of centuries before they swept the nation.

It was a chance meeting between Adolph Levitt, an enterprising Russian immigrant and baker, and an engineer on a train in the Midwest. The duo devised the prototype of a donut-making machine, which Levitt perfected and launched in his Harlem, New York, bakery in 1921. Prominently displayed in the window, the machine automatically dropped perfect circles of dough into a vat of hot oil, deep-frying and then flipping them until golden brown. The machines caught the attention of passersby, who stopped to watch the donuts being made, then headed to the bakery to buy one fresh out of the fryer.

This ingenious invention led to the founding of the Donut Corporation of America, or DCA. Levitt added these machines to his other bakeries and also sold the machines and a unique flour blend to bakeries across the country. So how does the apple cider donut play into this story? DCA’s marketing game was on point, and they would introduce a standout flavor each fall during “National Donut Month” in October to increase sales. In 1951, it was the Sweet Cider Donut.

Around the same time that Levitt and the DCA released the ultimate fall donut, more city families were buying cars and heading out on day trips to the countryside. Orchards and farm stands were a frequent stop for these newly moved people, and it wasn’t hard for them to start selling donuts made with their own apple cider.

What is it about the apple cider donut that makes it so appealing? It’s the addition of apple cider, cinnamon, and nutmeg to a basic buttermilk donut mix. The cider adds more moisture to the donut, a natural sweetness, and gives it a sturdy structure that makes it perfect for dunking in a hot cup of coffee or apple cider. Most New England orchards and cider houses have their own unique recipe that they fry up and offer to visitors who arrive on fall trips or after a day of apple picking.

Apple cider donuts have stood the test of time, outlasting Adolph Levitt’s Donut Corporation of America, which was bought out by another company in the 1970s. Trips to apple orchards remain a rite of passage every year. fall. Families and groups of friends throw on their coziest sweaters, hop in the car for a leaf peek, and end the day with a donut. If you don’t live near a farm or orchard, supermarkets and coffee shops across the country offer their version of the iconic donut, or you can always look up a recipe and try making it yourself.

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