Cider has remained a popular beverage in England, Normandy and Brittany for over a thousand years. When European colonists migrated to the new world, they brought their thirst and their passion to make apple cider with them. By the mid 1600s, barrels of hard cider could be found in nearly every farmhouse and townhouse cellar.
The world famous writer Ernest Hemmingway recommended cider as his drink of choice for hot African safaris. Apple cider can’t guarantee a successful safari. But it is healthy, refreshing and easy to make at home with basic kitchen tools.
1. Choosing the apples
If you have an apple tree, begin with that variety. Pick only healthy, ripe apples. Discard any apples that are bruised or have fallen on the ground. Damaged apples can ruin the cider and quickly turn it to vinegar.
36 apples will yield about a gallon of apple cider. An average apple tree can provide 20 gallons of apple cider or more, depending on size and quantity of apples.
Commercial brewers frequently use a blend of several varieties. Red Delicious and Fuji make a sweeter cider. Granny Smith and Macintosh will yield a tart cider.
Cider will taste best when made from freshly picked ripe apples. If you don’t have your own tree, visit a local farmer’s market or orchard.
2. Pressing vs. juicing
Wash the apples to remove dirt, insect, pesticides or sprays before juicing.
Use an apple crusher and press. If there is a large quantity, or bushels and bushels, of apples to process, this may be worth the investment. To purchase a crusher and press plan on spending $375 to $825.
Or, use a kitchen blender. It is slower, but will get the job done. Look for the higher horsepower models like Vitamix 5200. If buying a new blender, choose a model over 500 watts. Blenders can cost anywhere from $50 to $500.
My choice for the juicing is a high-powered juicer like the Breville Ikon, their 900-watt countertop monster sells for about $200. It will juice anything leaving only dry apple pulp that makes a valuable addition the compost bin.
Core the apples or cut into quarters and carve out the center of each, then puree, in a blender or food processor. The finer the pulp, the more juice you’ll be able to extract. Drain and strain the puree to capture the juice.
If using a juicer, cut the apples in half and toss them into the juicer. The juicer is dramatically faster and more efficient.
3. Processing apple cider
Spread several layers of cheesecloth over a large funnel in a large jug. Pour the cider into the cheesecloth to remove leftover pulp. The cheesecloth acts as a strainer, the juice filters through the cloth and the pulp stays in the cheesecloth.
Empty 1-gallon water containers make good storage containers and they are free after drinking the water. Wash the containers thoroughly to prevent bacteria from turning the cider into vinegar.
Different spices will add flavor such as: cloves, nutmeg, lemon peels and ginger. They are flavors that can give the cider a more sophisticated flair. A cinnamon stick can add some holiday flair to the cider.
Cider will keep for 7-days if stored in an airtight container in a refrigerator. Or, pasteurize the cider by heating it to 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 degrees Celsius) and it is safe for about 3-weeks.
4. Preserving cider
Preserve cider by freezing it. It will keep for a year in the freezer with only a slight loss of flavor. The big disadvantage is most people quickly run out of freezer space. A better solution is to preserve the cider in quart jars the same way as preserving jams and jellies.
Sterilize the glass jars. A dishwasher is useful if it has a sanitize cycle. Wash the jars in hot, soapy water and rinse. Then sanitize the jars by boiling them 10 minutes, and keep the jars in hot water until they are ready to be filled. Keep the jars hot to prevent creaking when filled with hot apple cider.
Heat the cider to a low simmering boil and fill the jars to within ¼-inch of the top rim. Soak the lids and jar rings in near boiling water. Wipe off any cider on the top rim of the jar mouth, seat the lid and tighten the ring. Place the jars in a how water canner or deep pot and bring the water to boil. Pints or quarts should be processed in boiling water for 5-minutes at sea level to 1,000-ft. and 10-minutes in higher altitudes, up to 6,000-ft.
Remove the jars from the boiling water and cool on a towel in a draft free location. The lids will make a popping noise when sealed. Any jars that have not sealed properly, should be refrigerated and consumed within 3-weeks. For more information read the Ball Blue Book or visit the USDA’s National Center for Home Food Preservation.
5. Storing cider
Stored in a cool, dark place such as a basement or kitchen cabinet. Canned cider will keep for 1-year.
6. Basic cider tools
Apple grinder, press, blender, or juicer
Sharp kitchen knife
If canning you’ll also need:
Canning jars, lids and rings
A large water bath pot