Apple fans will notice that many apple recipes – from pies to preserves – often call for calvados as a way to further boost the apple flavor of the recipe. Calvados is an apple brandy from the Normandy region of France that can be used a bit like an extract can be used to give apples a little more complex flavor. Calvados starts out with fresh apples. The apples are juiced and then fermented into an apple cider, then that cider is distilled into eau de vie, a type of clear brandy that is made with any fruit that isn’t a grape. To turn it from eau de vie into Calvados, the liqueur is transferred into oak barrels and left to age for two or more years. Calvados that is aged longer typically is smoother and has a more complex flavor, with deeper notes of fruit and oak, as well as a darker color
Calvados is often called for in British and other European recipes, where it is a little more commonly used than it is in the US. In a recipe, it can be be used much like a flavored extract, and only a small amount of it needs to be added to a recipe to give it some extra flavor. For instance, you might add a tablespoon or so to an apple cake recipe to make it a little less ordinary, or you could add it to some caramelized apples before serving them with ice cream. With a small amount, most of the alcohol will burn off during cooking or baking, leaving you with just the flavor behind.