Truth be told, there wasn’t a whole lot of market watching going on last Wednesday at the Portland Farmers’ Market. The sidewalks and city squares vanished overnight under a smooth – and treacherous – sheet of ice. When I glided across Monument Square to the Portland Press Herald office that morning, just one lone farmer had set up; he was selling jugs of apple cider. An hour later, he was joined by a few other brave stragglers peddling beets, rutabaga and gnarled monster carrots. Vegetables, like people, must be hardy to survive a Maine winter.

So … apple cider. Not the newly trendy hard stuff. Just ordinary, extraordinary apple cider. When I lived in Texas, I struggled to find it, but it’s hard to imagine a fall in New England without it. Dress up hot cider: heat it with a rosemary sprig and smashed peppercorns, let it steep, then strain. Reheat the cider and add a spoonful (or several spoonfuls) of vodka. Or, try boiling cider down in a pot over medium high heat with a little butter and a few fresh sage leaves. When it’s syrupy, brush it on roasted squash halves or a roast chicken, mix it into mashed sweet potatoes, add it to a pot of beans. Or use it to make salad dressing with good olive oil, apple cider vinegar and Dijon mustard. Dress a spinach salad, don’t forget the diced bacon.

Start again: This time replace the butter and sage in your cider syrup with a cinnamon stick, whole cloves or allspice, and a few coins of fresh peeled ginger. When this version has reduced to syrup, drizzle it over yogurt, a baked apple or a winter fruit salad made from dates, apples, pears and persimmon. Feeling more ambitious? Mix it with eggs, brown sugar, a bit of cream and bake it into a pie – that’s Boiled Cider Pie, an old New England dessert that some clever Maine pastry chef ought to revive.

When my mother returned from a stay in the hospital more than a decade ago, I was going through a Jell-O phase, and she was a willing – or possibly unwilling – participant in my experiments in the kitchen. The week I nursed her, I made homemade Jell-O out of juices of all sorts. Apple Cider Jell-O, or Gelée if you must, was my favorite. Follow the recipe on the box of unflavored gelatin but use half the amount of gelatin called for. I usually add brown sugar, grated fresh ginger, orange zest and chopped cranberries and pears.

At my house, cider rules!