Cider-Glazed Roast Chicken or Game Hen

Bigfork's Cider Press Event, 2012

Bigfork’s Cider Press Event, 2012

By Cat, Jan 2009 (Photo, right, by D. Dutro, from 2012 Community Cider Press event)

See also: 1. Poultry & Fowl Menu; 2. Roasting a Bird; 3. Chicken Normande (with Apples, Brandy & Cream)

My small community has an Octoberfest celebration each fall, called Tamarack Time! in honor of our western larch trees (mistakenly called tamaracks by early settlers) which begin to turn golden in October. One of the events at this celebration is ESP’s community cider press* – people bring their apples and jugs, then take cider home. The apple grinder is made of mostly repurposed materials and powered by humans on recumbent bikes; the press is hand-operated. I use my cider from this event to make this and other recipes using cider, such as Chicken Normande (with Apples, Brandy & Cream).

*ESP, or Essential Stuff Project, is a local sustainability group of which I am a founding member and editor of The EssentiaList blog. We host this event as an example of our mission, which is to live sustainably and build a stronger local community.

Roast Cider-Glazed Chicken or Game Hen

This recipe is adapted from Fine Cooking, originally by Melissa Pellegrino (1). The original uses 8 thighs to serve 4, but I start with a whole chicken cut into pieces, using the legs (drumstick & thigh), wings and one of the half breasts (halved again, crosswise). I freeze the other half-breast for another use, and the back pieces for making chicken stock.

Another way to do this is to divide the bird into halves: First cut through the ribs on both sides to separate the  back pieces (to save for making stock). At this point you can brine and roast the butterflied breast/wings/legs to serve 4 – 6, or cut through the breast bone to divide the meaty halves (each half serves 2 – 3) and freeze one of the halves for future use. This is the method I use in the instructions below (using one of the meaty halves to serve 2 – 3). You can easily double it for both halves.

If using game hen(s): butterfly, brine and roast, then cut through the breast before serving 2 with each hen.

The best cider is freshly-pressed. But since the cider is cooked in this recipe, you can also use pasteurized cider. The cider meant here is fresh (sweet), not hard.

Ingredients & Equipment to serve 2:

  • Roast: Meaty pieces of ½ chicken, either cut apart or kept together (save backs for making stock) or 1 Cornish Game Hen (butterflied), bone-in, skin on.
  • 2 tsp olive oil (1 Tbsp if 2 half-chickens)
  • unrefined sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 – 2 sweet potatoes (yams), cut into 1 ½” sections
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp Basil-Balsamic (or just Balsamic) vinaigrette dressing
  • Glaze:
  • 6 Tbsp apple cider (⅜ cup)
  • ½ Tbsp honey (I use ½ tsp because my cider is so sweet)
  • scant1 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (use 1 ½ Tbsp for two half-chickens)
  • Equipment: 
  • medium bowl
  • small saucepan
  • roasting pan with rack (or baking sheet lined with foil, and rack positioned on top)


  1. Prep: Cut chicken to separate the meaty pieces or butterfly them, then brine at least the breast(s) or butterfly and brine game hen(s).
  2. Remove from brine, rinse then pat dry.
  3. Peel sweet potato/yam, then cut into 1 ½” discs and gently toss with vinaigrette and a little of the apple cider. NOTE: If you cut the chicken pieces apart before roasting, you may wish to lightly parboil the sweet potato before tossing with vinaigrette and adding to the roasting pan, so that both will be done at the same time.
  4. Glaze: Prepare this while the chicken is roasting (see below):
  5. Add cider and honey to saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer vigorously until mixture has reduced to ¼ cup, 8 – 10 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, cut butter into small pieces.
  7. Remove saucepan from heat and whisk in butter until it melts.
  8. Set aside, to use after roasting the bird(s).
  9. Roast: Preheat oven to 450°F. Prepare roasting pan.
  10. Combine oil, salt and pepper in bowl (don’t include salt if you brined the meat). If you cut the chicken into pieces, toss pieces in the oily mix. If leaving the halves whole, brush all sides with the oily mixture. Arrange on roasting rack, skin-side up. Tuck discs of sweet potato around the pieces/halves.
  11. Roast until lightly golden and an instant-read thermometer registers about 165°F when inserted in the meaty part of the thigh (careful, don’t touch the bone. This will take 20 minutes (if pieces are separate), or as much as 45 minutes for in-tact half-chicken.
  12. Glaze: This can be done in a broiler (set to high) or in the hot oven. If glaze has thickened too much, warm it a bit over lowest heat. Brush ⅓ over chicken, and broil, or just continue to roast in the oven. After 1 minute, brush on another ⅓ of the glaze and continue to broil/roast until deep golden-brown, 2 – 3 minutes.
  13. Remove from oven/broiler, brush with remaining glaze, and serve.


10/7/10: I used in-tact half chicken (without back), and did not brine because my fridge is so full there’s no room for the big bowl. I brushed the half-bird with olive oil, then seasoned with salt and pepper. Placed in my small oval roasting pan (it has ridges on bottom so I don’t need a rack), then followed recipe as written, using my hot oven to brown the glaze rather than my broiler because it is separate from the oven and I hate cleaning it. I also baked a peeled, cut-up sweet potato tossed with my basil-balsamic vinaigrette, and a little of the apple juice added to the baking pan. Result: Chicken is quite tasty and the sweet potatoes are a good addition; I updated recipe accordingly.

12/14/14: Used butterflied game hen and addition of sweet potatoes as written, to serve 2. I intended to brine the bird for 2 hours but forgot and it was in brine about 5 hours before I remembered. So then I soaked it in two changes of fresh water, soaking for 1 hour and then 2 hours, respectively, to reduce the salt in the meat. Then rinsed bird and placed it on a plate covered with paper towel to dry out the skin in the refrigerator overnight. Used maple syrup instead of honey in glaze because my honey had crystallized. Roasted 45 minutes; chicken had reached temperature but the sweet potatoes were not quite done – I should have parboiled them. So I kept glazed chicken warm while I continued to roast the sweet potatoes. Result: Quite tasty, not too salty (so the fresh water soak worked) This recipe is really quite simple and quick!


  1. Fine Cooking, originally by  Melissa Pellegrino (

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