As I’m writing this post my kitchen still smells like fall. I wait somewhat patiently for this time of year as the leaves begin to turn and the apples ripen and pumpkins start to line doorways. And I’m one of those people that do not care for how stores like to bring the fall stuff out as early as late JULY. I refuse to order a pumpkin spice latte before labor day and I will not decorate for Halloween until October 1st. That being said, I always look forward to the end of September when I can go apple picking and turn this red, yellow and green jewels until some of my favorite sweets.
My usual orchard was a bit picked over this weekend and the pink ladies weren’t yet ready. I’m actually heading back on my birthday with my sister, a fall bride to be, (cake photos coming soon) to pick some small apples for her centerpieces, I’m hoping for some pink ladies then. But this year I was able to pick up some Cortland, Honeycrisp, Ginger gold, Cameo, and Jonagold. I’m hoping within a few years I’ll be picking my own from my backyard. 10 new apple trees are being planted this year to replace the 8 lost. I had 2 survivors from the backyard drainage (read flood), but they are doing rather well in their new raised beds. More on that later.
But let’s get on to what this post is really about: apple cider. I think it was 2012 when I first stumbled on to Smitten Kitchen’s apple cider caramels recipe. These were. are. always. amazing. Really. I’ve never let a fall go by since that I haven’t made them. It’s become a tradition. In 2014 though I stumbled onto a problem. I don’t know what changed with my usual store bought cider but somehow when I was boiling down the cider to create the concentrate I ended up with a burnt, fibrous additive at the bottom. It made for some nasty tasting caramels too. When I started looking (and struggled) to find the unpasteurized stuff, I decided to make my own.
This starts with about half a bushel of apples. No seriously. I purchased about 21-22 pounds this year. The recipe I list is a more manageable amount but you can scale it to your fall cooking needs. In my case, I needed about 1 1/2 gallons, which is about 40 or so apples. Get a variety of flavors. It makes for a much better cider when you’ve got a blend of sweet, tart, crisp and tangy. All of them get cut up and tossed in a BIG stockpot (in my case 2 BIG stockpots). You toss them in whole; cores, skins, seeds — all of it. You actually can just quarter them if you want but my Ikea apple slicer makes the process just a little quicker and I think they cook down better.
Of course, you need some spices to compliment your tasty apples. This year I messed around with the blend and used cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. I really recommend whole spices if you have them. The finely ground stuff is fine, but it’s hard to empty full jars because I use so much when working in bulk. Anyway, dump them in a couple layers of cheesecloth secured with a rubber band and toss it in the pot along with about 3/4 cup of sugar per 10 apples and enough water to submerge the apples.
Don’t be fooled by my pic. The apples will float, but when pressed down they are submerged. What’s nice is that I can get my stockpot pretty full and not have to worry about spillover. Splattering is a bit of problem. Should I maybe not fill the pots so full? Probably. It takes a good 20-30 minutes to get that much apple and water to actually start boiling, but considering you bring hen bring them to boil for 1 hours, uncovered, and then simmer, covered, for 2 hours, you tend not to want to spend the time breaking up the batches. (Did I mention my sister’s getting married soon?). Water can fly out during that first hour so be careful.
Enjoy the wonderful aroma that’s about to fill your kitchen for the next 24 hours.
Now the fun part. Be sure to let that wonderful brew cool first. Then, mash the apples well with a potato masher. Now comes the fun part. Straining. I can’t tell you how many ways I’ve messed around with this, trying to figure out the best way to squeeze delicious cider from my mashed apples. I’m actually putting in serious thought into getting an electric strainer. But until then…
Here’s what worked for me. First I pour the mixture through your basic kitchen mesh strainer. I actually did this twice since the pulp still seemed to still have some juice in it. Then I took that juice and ran it through cheese cloth. As the pulp piles up in the cloth and wrap it up and squeeze out any extra juice. The result is an amber colored liquid that tastes like bottled fall.
And the possibilities go on from there…
Homemade Apple CiderPrint Recipe
- About 15 apples in a variety of flavors, balance your sweet with crisp and tart
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 4 tablespoons cinnamon (or 4 cinnamon sticks)
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon allspice
- 2 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cloves
Quarter or use an apple slicer to cut the apples
In a large stock pot add your apples and fill with water, just enough to cover the apples. Remember they float!
Add sugar and stir a bit.
Wrap spices in a doubled up cheese cloth and tie, toss this into the pot and make sure its submerged.
Boil on high for one hour, uncovered. Then, turn down heat and let simmer for two hours, covered.
Take off the heat and let it cool.
Remove the spice pouch and mash up the apples with a potato masher.
Pour into a strainer over a large bowl. Repeat. Run this juice through a layer of cheesecloth to filter more, squeeze this mixture to obtain more juice. You can also, put the inital thicker pulp into a doubled up cheese cloth and squeeze it for more juice.
Cider can be stored in an air tight container in the fridge for up to a week or you can turn it into syrup and can it for apple cider all winter long!