There’s nothing that quite says fall like fresh apple cider. Every fall we gather together and pick apples on our homestead. We drag the old cider press out of the barn, brush the cobwebs off and clean it up so that we can make our very own apple cider.
Everyone gets involved from the oldest to the youngest members of the family. As the children scamper about gathering the apples that have fallen within their reach, or they reach for the heavy laden apples off of the lowest branches of our apple trees, we begin the process of collecting apples for homemade apple cider.
We spend a few days picking all of the apples on the property (there are 7 apple trees on the 80 acres that we live on).
As the apples are picked, they go into the bucket of the tractor or crates and bags depending on the group that are picking them. It’s an all day project and we have a lot of fun gathering together to pick them from the trees.
After they’re all picked we take them to an old washtub and rinse them well. None of the apples on our property are sprayed. They’re all organic and some are in better shape than others. We mix them all together regardless of variety. This gives us a unique taste in our cider.
Now comes the fun part. We get to make apple cider.
Table of Contents:
How To Make Apple Cider Without A Cider Press
Many people don’t realize that you can make apple cider without a cider press. Many don’t have access to an apple cider press so we’ve included those instructions here as well. The apple cider will still turn out just as delicious as if you’d used an apple cider press to make it.
Wash If you aren’t using a cider press you’ll want to wash your apples in a pan, the sink, an old wash tub or cooler, and quarter your apples. There’s no need to peel them as you’ll be straining the solids out of the cider before you’re done.
Place the quartered apples into a large kettle or stock pot, and fill with water to approximately 2 inches above the level of the apples. A water bath canner or a stock pot are ideal for this step.
Add sugar, honey, and any spices if desired. For approximately 10 apples add in ¾ cup of organic sugar or honey. Add in some cinnamon if desired (we add about a tablespoon) and if desired allspice and cloves (we don’t add these but our friends do and they said they add in about a teaspoon of each).
If you prefer your apple cider to be a bit more tart you can leave the organic sugar or honey out and leave out the spices. The sugar and spices will give it a more spiced cider flavor.
Bring stock pot to boil. Gently bring your stock pot to a boil and then turn the burner off and place the lid on your stock pot. We allow it to partially cool and then we put the heat on low and simmer this for about 2 to 4 hours.
The longer it simmers, the more mushy the apples and the more the spices will permeate the juice. We love this step as the scent wafts through the house making all of us salivate for the sweet apple cider that is so near at hand.
Remove the stock pot from the heat after 2 to 4 hours and allow the apple cider to cool to room temperature undisturbed. Strain this apple cider through cheese cloth to remove any of the pulp, bits of cinnamon stick and bits of whole cloves.
Repeat the straining one more time through a piece of cheese cloth and pour through a colander into a clean bottle.
Chill your new cider before serving.
Your fresh made apple cider can be served hot or cold. We like to serve ours hot on a winter night with a cinnamon stick and a pinch of cloves on top. You can also add a pat of butter and some whip cream if desired.
Cap your bottle of fresh apple cider and refrigerate it. Serve chilled. Your new apple cider will last approximately 2 weeks in the refrigerator or you can leave a 1 inch head space and freeze your newly filled bottles of apple cider to enjoy all year long.
How To Make Apple Cider With a Cider Press
If you’re lucky enough to have a cider press or if you have a friend who has one and will allow you to borrow it this is how most cider presses work. You can also design your own apple cider press if you have the right components. Of course, there are a few different types so your cider press may work slightly differently.
Wash your apples. You don’t need anything fancy for this. An old bathtub, clean horse trough, washtub or even a large sink or cooler will all do to wash your apples.
Simply place the apples into the container, fill with water and pick out debris such as leaves, bugs, stems that are already detached and so on. Take your time, it will make the next step easier if you do this first.
Many simply grab a dry cloth and wipe each apple down as they place them into the washing container. Others prefer to just dump them in and get on with it. Either way is fine it’s all up to you.
Drain the rinse water at least twice and refill the container with fresh water to ensure that you’re getting everything off of the apples that you don’t want in your cider.
This is an important step that will affect the outcome of your apple cider. You don’t want a lot of stems in the cider nor do you want to include any unusual protein sources if you can avoid it (worms, bugs etc.).
Allow your apples to air dry. Many people allow their apples to sit for a few days so that they will be sweeter. This is again, personal preference. If you have the time, allow them to sit for a few days. If not, it will still be delicious.
Grind or chop up your apples. Some people just leave them whole and this is, again, personal preference. Just make sure that the apples release as much of their delicious juice as possible.
As you grind or chop them up place them into a container ensuring that you keep all of the juice that is beginning to flow from them.
We used a grinder for our apples. We put the apples in whole and then removed them to the cider press from there. By placing a bucket underneath of the grinder we were able to save the juice and grind the apples so that they would press easier and yield more juice.
It’s now time to place your apples into the container for your apple cider press. Dump as many apples as you can fit into the cider press keeping in mind that you have to be able to place the “lid” on it and the press (we used a hydraulic jack to press ours so we had to allow for the jack to sit on top of the lid and beneath the cider press components).
As you begin to exert pressure on the ground apples the juice should begin to flow into a container that you have underneath of the press. Press the lid as flat as possible so that you’ll get all of the juice out of the apples.
When the press is as flat as possible, we added in more ground apples and repeated the process. We didn’t remove the previous ground apples that had already been pressed until we absolutely had to for room so that we could get as much of the juice out of the apples as possible.
When we did remove them, we fed them to the pigs or other livestock rather than throwing them out. When we didn’t have livestock, we simply put them into our compost pile.
Take your time, this is a bit messy but it’s well worth taking your time and pressing your apples time and again to get as much of the delicious juice as you possibly can.
We place a five gallon bucket beneath our press to capture the delicious juice that will come oozing out. We do this part out on our patio and just hose the patio off with the garden hose when we’re all finished.
Now that you have your fresh cider, you’ll want to put it into bottles so that you can keep it and drink it later. Some people choose to strain their fresh apple cider through a cheese cloth or a coffee filter but we like ours unfiltered (see note below on difference between apple cider and apple juice).
You can allow the jugs of juice to sit and the “debris” will settle in the bottom of the jug and you can then gently pour it out without getting the “debris” into your glass of juice. You can also strain the juice into your glass through a cheese cloth, coffee filter or the like if you desire.
Apple Cider Recipes
There are several ways to serve your fresh made cider. You can serve it chilled with some ice in your glass or you can select from a spiced cider recipe (we’ve included one below) or simply heat your cider up and serve it that way if desired.
Spiced Apple Cider Recipe
During the holiday season we like to drink spiced cider. Here is our favorite recipe. Keep in mind that this recipe can be adjusted as desired so don’t feel limited to any of the ingredients beyond the apple cider itself.
Everything on this ingredient list is optional except for the apple cider. We like ours heavily spiced buy you may prefer just one or two spices in yours. It’s all about flavor.
- 2 quarts or so fresh pressed apple cider
- ½ cup brown sugar (we prefer the dark)
- 1 apple – don’t peel it and cut it in half and remove the seeds
- 1 small mandarin or naval orange unpeeled and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
- 2 tsp whole cloves (or ground cloves if preferred).
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- ½ tsp allspice
To make a richer version you can add a tablespoon of butter to the top of each mug before serving.
Heat the apple cider in a stock pot on the stove and gently stir in the dark brown sugar. Float the apple halves in the pan and add in the cloves, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg and allspice. Serve the hot apple cider in a mug that is garnished with one or two of the orange slices on the rim of the mug.
Special note: If you have little ones, make sure to remove the whole cloves, any apple seeds, and cinnamon sticks to prevent choking. My sister likes to put a dab of whip cream on the top of hers like they do in coffee shops.
It can add a lovely touch if you’re trying to impress someone. A pat of butter floating on the top adds a richness to your hot spiced apple cider as well.
Crock Pot Apple Cider Recipe
If you prefer to use your crock pot you can make a great apple cider in your crock pot as well. You’ll need a crock pot and the following ingredients:
- 1 quart filtered water
- 10 apples washed and quartered
- 1 orange (your preference) sliced not peeled just quarter it and toss it into the crock pot with the rest of the ingredients
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon or 2 cinnamon sticks
Place all ingredients in the crock pot and place the lid on it. Set the crock pot on the low setting and allow to simmer for six to eight hours. Remove fruit pulp and serve hot or chill if desired.
We often strain our fresh made apple cider when removing it from the crock pot and then we pour the apple cider back into the crock pot and set it on low and add in some spices so that we can have hot spiced apple cider later that evening. Ideal for Christmas Eve or other times when you might have a family gathering to celebrate a holiday.
For added richness you can add a pat of butter and a pinch of cloves on each mug of hot apple cider. If your apples are too tart and the apple cider is tart you can add organic or raw honey to sweeten this when you pour it in your mug.
Spiced Immune System Boosting Apple Cider
We’ve all been there. That feeling that your throat is scratchy, you’re starting to feel stuffed up and you have a lot to do tomorrow. You don’t have time to be sick. This spiced immune system boosting apple cider may be just what you need.
Here’s what you’ll need for this recipe:
- 1 medium onion (not a sweet onion), peel and coarsely chop
- 3 inches of fresh ginger root grated
- 1 garlic head peeled and put through a garlic press or coarse chopped
- 1 Tablespoon of echinacea root (optional) grated
- Raw organic honey to taste
- 4 cups fresh apple cider with sediments intact
- 2 teaspoons cayenne powder or 1 fresh cayenne pepper coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated horseradish (optional)
Combine above ingredients in a quart jar and place in a sunny location for a few weeks. Strain the herbs and onion out and place the jar in the refrigerator. Take 1 teaspoon as needed through illness.
You can also steep one teaspoon in a mug of hot water and add honey and lemon to taste and sip throughout the day as needed through illness.
While you’re not going to win any popularity contests on your breath when you’re using this spiced immune system apple cider blend, you’ll start feeling better quickly and be well on your way to recovery.
My daughter likes to add a dash of Tabasco sauce to this for some added zest and immune boosting properties.
You can also mix it in equal proportions with honey and more cayenne and take it that way if desired.
Difference Between Apple Cider and Apple Juice
Many people get caught up in the difference between apple cider and apple juice when using a cider press to make apple cider. Both are beverages that are derived from apples.
However, fresh cider is raw apple juice that hasn’t been filtered nor have any of the particles been removed that form the pulp or the sediment.
While you can strain these out of the resulting juice in the cider press, you don’t want to heat or other wise “filter” the juice. Allowing some sediment to remain will make this cider and not juice.
One of the best things about making apple cider is that you can alter the flavor by which types of apples you’re using. If you prefer a more tart apple cider choose tart apples.
If you prefer a sweeter apple cider, choose sweeter apples. A combination of tart and sweet apples will result in a unique flavor for your apple cider.
If you prefer a sweeter cider you can choose only sweet apples. If you prefer a more tart cider choose only tart apples. Part of the fun of using your cider press is that you get to adjust the types of apples and control the sweetness of your apple cider.
If you find a flavor that you simply love, be sure that you make a note of the types of apples (and the ratio) that you used to come up with your special recipe. Keep in mind however, that just as many fruits, apples may be more tart one season than another, even on the same apple tree.
Because the apple cider is unfiltered it needs to be kept in the refrigerator or it will begin to ferment. If you’re going to be keeping it longer than two weeks you’ll want to freeze your apple cider.
Always ensure that you leave at least 2 inches of head space if you’re going to be freezing your apple cider so that there is room for expansion.
Should your apple cider begin to ferment, you can use it as apple cider vinegar. The “debris” that is floating in the apple cider “vinegar” when it begins to ferment is the “mother”. It will appear thready or cloudy. It’s still safe to use, it’s just “organic apple cider vinegar”.
Fun Facts About Apple Cider
- National Apple Cider Day, November 18, is a day that is celebrated in the U.K. It is in honor of the day that William Tell shot an apple from his sons head on November 18, 1307..
- It takes approximately 36 apples to make one gallon of apple cider.
- Children were baptized in apple cider in the 14th century because it was considered to be cleaner than water.
- The pilgrims drank apple cider as it was safer than drinking water when they came to America.
- The longest living United States President, President John Adams, drank one tankard of hard apple cider per day each morning with his breakfast.
- In England, during the 13th and during the 19th centuries, the farmers were paid wages that also included four pints of apple cider each working day.
There are well over 7,500 different varieties of apples in the world. If you were to eat the “apple a day” that is recommended it would take you about 20 years to try all of the different varieties of apples. Most people will only try about 10 different varieties of apples in their lifetime.