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Image for article titled Where to find the best apple cider donuts this season

Photo: Josh Wussow

Even I, with my decided lack of gluttony, am almost helpless under the spell of apple cider donuts. There’s something about the cold air, the changing colors and the crisp scent of fall that opens up your senses in the right way to admit the sugar and the heat.

And unlike some seasonal desserts, these donuts aren’t really regional. Apples are a hardy fruit and cider making has been around since the invention of paper. As long as apples are growing in your neighborhood, chances are someone is pressing, threshing and frying their surplus.

But how can you know you’re getting donuts at their best? Of course, packaged rings labeled as “cider donuts” might show up in your local grocery store, shipped from unknown orchards. But how long have they been sitting on a truck and how many times have they been frozen, thawed, or stuck in limbo in between? Do they actually contain cider? If you want the real real thing, there are only two ways to enjoy these desserts at their peak. And the first is to go to the source.

Image for article titled Where to find the best apple cider donuts this season

Photo: Josh Wussow

Put on your sweater, run to an orchard and eat a box of cider donuts

To no one’s surprise, apple orchards usually make the best cider donuts. And while that’s not universally true, those who make their donuts locally deliver a superior product. Could it be that one is simply caught up in the sights, sounds and smells of batter? Maybe, but I doubt it. No grocery store or shipped package can match the sensual experience of a fresh batch of donuts still warm from the kitchen. Add a paper cup of steaming cider or coffee and you’ve got a taste that borders on alchemy.

Buying from the source also increases the shelf life of your donuts. Assuming they are in a properly sealed container, you can add two or even three days before the peak of their flavor begins to fade. You can also toss a packet in the freezer, tucking them away for a mid-winter pick-me-up. The texture won’t be quite the same once thawed, but in the quiet times between plowing sessions, I doubt you’ll notice too much.

Image for article titled Where to find the best apple cider donuts this season

Photo: Josh Wussow

Take out the cider, plug in the blender and heat up your frying oil

There’s a better option than freezing your fall leftovers: make your own. Internet is full of homemade cider donut recipesas well as videos from popular sources. The basics with Babish has one, and extensive preparation is available from Rick Martinez.

But let’s say you’re looking to cut calories just a little bit, or want to minimize disorder, or you are fair not in home frying. Watch Chef John, one of the patron saints of YouTube cooking. Her Food Wishes recipe for baked cider donuts is as delicious as it is entertaining.

However you grab these fall treats, there really is no wrong way to enjoy them. Pair one with your coffee, reheat a stack in the microwave, or cut one in half and make a sandwich with an egg, aged cheddar, and a slice of bacon or sausage. i’m not telling you have to try this one. But if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m about to.