Recipe & instructions: Homemade apple cider - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Recipe & instructions: Homemade apple cider

Apple cider is healthy, refreshing and easy to make at home. (©iStockphoto/Thinsktock) Apple cider is healthy, refreshing and easy to make at home. (©iStockphoto/Thinsktock)

By Bill Washburn

Apple cider drinking has been a popular American tradition since colonial days. By 1638, barrels of apple cider could be found in virtually every farmhouse and townhouse cellar. John Adams, our second American president, drank a tankard of cider every morning before breakfast and lived to the age of 90. The world famous 20th century writer and adventurer Ernest Hemingway recommended cider as his favorite drink on hot African nights while on lion safaris. Apple cider can't guarantee a lifespan like John Adams or a successful lion hunt. But it is healthy, refreshing and easy to make at home in an afternoon with basic kitchen tools.

Here's how to get started with apple cider.

Choosing apples for cider

If there is already an apple tree in your backyard, begin with that variety of apple. Always pick the healthiest ripe apples on the tree. Avoid any apples that are battered, bruised or have fallen on the ground. They can contaminate the cider and quickly turn it into vinegar.

You'll need approximately 36 apples to make one gallon of apple cider. An average apple tree can yield 20 gallons of apple cider or more, depending on the size and quantity of the apples.

- Most commercial ciders are made from a blend of different apples.

- Red Delicious and Fuji will make a sweeter cider. Granny Smith and Macintosh will yield a tart cider.

Making your own cider provides the opportunity to experiment with different apples. If you do decide to combine varieties, try to get a mix of red, green and gold for maximum layers of flavor.

Cider tastes best when it's made from freshly picked apples. If you don't have your own tree, it's worth a visit to a local farmer's market.

Pressing vs. juicing for apple cider

Be certain to wash all apples thoroughly to remove any pesticides or sprays.

There are several different methods to juice the apples. The first is using an apple crusher and press. If there is a large quantity of apples to process, this may be worth the investment.

- To purchase a crusher, press and accessories, plan on spending $375 to $825 depending on the size and capacity.

The next method is to use a kitchen blender. It is slow, but will eventually get the job done. Look for the higher horsepower models like Breville if buying a new blender, and chose a model well over 500 watts. Blenders can cost anywhere from $25 to $200. The third method is a high-powered juicer like the Breville Ikon, which is a 900-watt countertop monster at about $200. It will pretty much juice anything leaving dry apple pulp that is devoid of juice and a great addition the compost bin.

If using a blender, start by coring the apples or cut the apple in quarters and carve out the center of each. Next, puree them, peel and all, in the blender or food processor. Keep them whirling until they're finely ground. The finer the pulp, the more juice you'll be able to extract. Drain and strain to capture the juice.

If using a juicer, simply cut the apples in half and toss them into the juicer.

Processing apple cider

Next spread several layers of cheesecloth over a funnel and a container, pour the pulp into the cheesecloth to strain out any leftover pulp. The cheesecloth acts as a strainer, so the juice filters through the cloth and the pulp stays in the cloth. Empty gallon water containers make good storage containers and they are free after drinking the water. Wash the containers well whether using plastic or glass containers to prevent bacteria from turning the cider into vinegar.

- Experiment with different spices to add to the cider flavor such as: cloves, nutmeg, lemon peels and ginger. They are all complementary flavors that can be added to give the cider a more sophisticated flair. A cinnamon stick will add some holiday flair to the cider.

Cider will keep for about seven days if stored in a container with an airtight lid in a refrigerator. Or, pasteurize the cider by heating it to 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 degrees. Celsius) and it will keep for about 3 weeks.

How to preserve apple cider

The simple way to preserve cider is to freeze it. It will keep for a year in the freezer with only a slight loss of flavor and darkening of color. The big disadvantage of this is most people will quickly run out of freezer space.

A better method is to preserve the cider in quart jars the same way as preserving jams and jellies.

Sterilize the glass jars first. A dishwasher is fine for this if it has a "sanitize" cycle, the water bath jar processing at the end will sanitize them as well as the contents. It is fine to 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. Keeping them hot will prevent the jars from 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. Soak the lids and jar rings in near boiling water. Wipe off any cider on the top edge of the jars, seat the lid and tighten the rings. Place the jars in a 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. In higher altitudes, up to 6,000-ft, increase the process time to 10-minutes. Remove the jars from the water and let cool on a towel in a draft free place. Check that all jars are sealed properly. As the lids seal they will make a popping noise. Any jars that have not sealed properly, should be refrigerated and consumed within 3-weeks. For more information on preserving apple cider read the Ball Blue Book or visit the USDA's National Center for Home Food Preservation for a free 196-page booklet on canning.

Storing apple cider

Cider that has been canned in jars should be stored in a cool, dark place. Basements and cupboards work well for this. Canned cider will keep for one year.

Basic cider tools

- Apple grinder, press, blender, or juicer
- Sharp kitchen knife
- Storage containers
- Strainer
- Funnel
- Cheesecloth

If canning you'll need:

- Canning jars, lids and rings
- Jar funnel
- Jar lifter
- Water bath pot

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