How to Make Pennsylvania Coal-Cracker Apple Pie Boilo (A Drink)

Updated on February 9, 2018
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What Is Apple Pie Boilo?

Unless you live in a north-eastern Pennsylvanian or central Pennsylvanian mining town (a.k.a. a coal-cracker town) or know someone who does, you have probably never heard of apple pie boilo. I am here to tell you that you have been missing out on one of the tastiest drinks on this side of heaven.

There are innumerable iterations of boilo because everyone seems to have their own recipe. Generally, this beverage contains:

  • some kind of citrus (like lemons or oranges),
  • herbs and spices (like nutmeg or anise),
  • and a sweetener (such as honey).
  • Historically, it has a moonshine or whiskey base, but it can easily be made without that.

It isn't to difficult to make, just a little bit time consuming. But trust me (my mother said to never trust anyone who says "trust me"), you and your friends will be very happy if you make this delightful libation. This drink is also open to interpretation and experimentation, and everyone that makes it does it a little bit differently. This drink makes a regular appearance at the annual playing of the Lafayette-Lehigh football game (usually the week before Thanksgiving), which is the longest-running college-football rivalry in America.

Apple pie boilo can be served warm or cold, makes a great tasty treat for football tailgating parties, and is a great holiday drink that goes along with all the tasty pies, cakes, and other treats that usually show up around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday tables. It will warm the cockles of your heart (and your stomach).

Preparation Time

Prep time: 12 hours
Cook time: 2 hours
Ready in: 14 hours
Yields: 2 Gallons

Ingredients

  • 3 Red Delicious Apples, Optional
  • 1 Gallon Apple Cider
  • 1/2 Gallon Apple Juice, Concentrate Preferred
  • 2 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1/3 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 4 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 750 mL Four Queens Whiskey or Spiced Rum

Make sure you do not boil the boilo after the alcohol is added, because then you will boil away the alcohol.

Step-By-Step Preparation Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients except the whiskey (or rum).
  2. Simmer for two hours.
  3. Cool overnight.
  4. Filter out cinnamon sticks and apples.
  5. Add one bottle of your preferred alcohol.
  6. Serve warm or cold, but do not boil it. (If you boil it, you'll lose all of the alcohol.)

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Keep This in Mind When Making Apple Pie Boilo

Important Notes for the Preparation of Apple Pie Boilo

  1. Prep time includes allowing mixture to sit overnight (8-12 hours).
  2. Actual time to mix all ingredients together except the whiskey or rum is probably about 45 minutes.
  3. Always add whiskey or run to the mix after everything has been filtered and cooled down.
  4. Drink is best served warm on cold days.
  5. Makes a good companion drink to go with Russia Apple Sharlotka (which I wrote about in a previous Hub).
  6. Great drink for football tailgate parties, Thankgiving get-togethers, or Christmas/New Year's Holidays. Don't forget the Super Bowl!!!

Many video recipes recommend using EVERCLEAR Whole Grain Alcohol. WE DO NOT RECOMMEND USING EVERCLEAR OR ANY OTHER TYPE OF WHOLE GRAIN ALCOHOL.

Alaska Breaker Outside of Shamokin, PA
Alaska Breaker Outside of Shamokin, PA

A Brief History of Apple Pie Boilo

Apple pie boilo actually originated in Lithuania, and its original name was "Krupnickas." In its most basic and original form, the beverage contained moonshine. But as time has progressed and the drink has evolved in the coal regions of Pennsylvania, moonshine has been replaced in some recipes by Everclear (which is pretty close to moonshine). The tamer versions contain Four Queens whiskey. Nearly any boilo recipe that doesn't contain moonshine will have Four Queens.

In the Pennsylvania coal regions, boilo is of such great importance that every year there are contests where makers vie for the title of "Best Boilo Recipe."

Perhaps this is why apple pie boilo is frequently referred to as the "champagne of the coal region." Of paramount importance is that you should never add the alcohol portion to your boilo recipe when it is being heated or boiled. Add after everything else is done, and then when you heat before serving. Make sure you do not boil the boilo after the alcohol is added, because then you will boil away the alcohol (and your friends will tell you that you are stupid).

You may hear of applie boilo being referred to as "Pennsylvania Christmas punch," "coal-cracker champagne," "coal-region nectar," or "coal-cracker punch." There may even be some other terms used to refer to this beverage, as boilo is not restricted to the apple pie version, there are many other versions too. Some other version are called: honeyberry, "tomata," and blueberry—and there are as many names as there are variations.

This beverage became a tradition in the coal regions of Pennsylvania as the immigrants who brought the recipes here with them from Lithuania and other Slovak nations believed that the powerful punch held natural cures for such things as the flu and colds. Modern medicine would probably dispute that fact, but being married to a native Russian, I can tell you for certain that they have a lot of "home remedies," that most of us Americans would find to be strange and some even "hard-to-swallow." I will not elaborate on that last statement, but anyone who is married to a Russian woman can probably take a guess as to my meaning.

Red Delicious Apples
Red Delicious Apples

10 Reasons Why Apple Pie Boilo is a Great Drink

  1. If you make it right, you won't even know there is alcohol in it.
  2. It will warm the cockles of your heart on any cold and snowy winter day (night).
  3. It doesn't cost much to make.
  4. The recipe is enough to share with several people.
  5. It's part of Pennsylvania's coal-cracker history.
  6. You can start a conversation about this punch with "You might be a coal-cracker if..."
  7. Four Queens whiskey is cheap.
  8. It contains lots of fruit (which is good for you).
  9. You friends will think you are super-smart if you know PA coal-cracker history.
  10. It makes a great compliment to other apple-flavored desserts.

Have You Ever Tried Apple Pie Boilo?

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How Do You Make Non-Alcoholic Boilo?

Some people may want to make apple pie boilo that doesn't contain alcohol. Perhaps because of religious convictions, because someone in their social group is in recovery, or because minors will be attending the party. Whatever the reason may be, there are a variety of ways to replace the Four Queens Whisky with non-alcoholic beverages.

Some options are to use

  • four cups of ginger ale or
  • Barillo's apple-flavored soda (you may have to go to a Mexican or Puerto Rican market for this).

You can do some experimenting with other types of juice or soda too, but personally, I would stick with the apple flavors. There is no law that says you HAVE to stick with apple flavors, that is just my own preference. With trial and error, you might even come up with a concoction that suits your taste buds even better.

Keep in mind, that the nutional information is based on the Four Queens whiskey version of this drink. If you make the non-alcoholic version, the nutritional information will be somewhat different.

Nutrional Information is Estimated

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1 cup
Calories 341
Calories from Fat9
% Daily Value *
Fat 1 g2%
Saturated fat 0 g
Unsaturated fat 0 g
Carbohydrates 50 g17%
Sugar 49 g
Fiber 0 g
Protein 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 33 mg1%
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

Questions & Answers

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      • pocono foothills profile imageAUTHOR

        John Fisher 

        7 months ago from Easton, Pennsylvania

        I have never made it with caramel, but I will do some research. If I find a recipe, I will let you know.

      • pocono foothills profile imageAUTHOR

        John Fisher 

        7 months ago from Easton, Pennsylvania

        I take the skin off.

      • profile image

        Danny 

        9 months ago

        When you add the apples do you take the skin off or leave it on.

      • profile image

        Judy Mehlbaum 

        10 months ago

        I see Coleen adapted this to make caramel apple. Can you share how to do that. I would love to make the caramel. I had it and love it. Person who made it doesn't share the recipe.

      • profile image

        Colleen 

        21 months ago

        Having made this for a few years now I can tell you that kept in a cool place this boilo will last well more than a few months and the longer it sits he smoother it gets. I have always used everclear and not four queens but I don't see a difference in how long it would last. I have adapted the recipe to be a caramel apple and it has always been a HUGE hit! We have introduced it to friends and family outside of the coal region and they are absolutely in love!!

      • profile image

        Carol 

        21 months ago

        I would love to print this recipe for future use. How can I print only the recipe. I do have a wonderful Boilo recipe that I make, it has an orange for the fruit. I would love to make the apple pie Boilo. Could you do a printable recipe? Thank you PS. My husbands family are coal crackers!

      • pocono foothills profile imageAUTHOR

        John Fisher 

        3 years ago from Easton, Pennsylvania

        Thanks for your comment, Sharon. If it's refrigerated, it should keep for a few months at the very least, but the fresher you drink it the better.

      • profile image

        Sharon 

        3 years ago

        How long will this keep if I make and give as a gift?

      • profile image

        Nikki 

        3 years ago

      • pocono foothills profile imageAUTHOR

        John Fisher 

        4 years ago from Easton, Pennsylvania

        @bob-Everybody has their own version. Some have nutmeg and all spice, some don't.

      • profile image

        bob 

        4 years ago

        Why isn't nutmeg or all spice added? They are in apple pie... ???

      • pocono foothills profile imageAUTHOR

        John Fisher 

        4 years ago from Easton, Pennsylvania

        @NancySnyder-Thanks for your kind words. I've seen several different versions of boilo, many with lemons and oranges in the mix, but I haven't tried making any of them yet. I do have to say that I am very fond of the apple pie boilo though, and actually, I like to mix it 50/50 with horseradish vodka when it actually comes down to time to drink it. Gives it some additional zing.

      • NancySnyder profile image

        Nancy Snyder 

        4 years ago from Pennsylvania

        This is a great hub! As a Schuylkill County native I share your love for boilo. In my area most boilo recipes were made with oranges and cinnamon for a more citrusy drink. I only tried apple pie boilo a few years ago, but it is very good. As you mention boilo recipes vary. Since this is usually a home-made drink everyone tailors their recipe to their own preferences. I will be starting my holiday boilo soon. Thank you for sharing!

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