Introduction: Apple Cider
Apple Cider is a delicious treat that's easy to make. Basic apple cider is simple: juice a bunch of apples, add some spices, and serve! There are a lot of ways to make cider more interesting, however. In this instructable, I share my recipe for a simple apple cider that uses a variety of apples for an interesting (but classic) flavor. I also added a bit of orange and lemon.
Note: This is a basic apple cider instructable. For more ideas, see Hot Ginger-Spiced Apple Cider by ewilhelm or Home Brew Hard Cider from Scratch by actsofsubterfuge.
Step 1: Apple Cider Vs. Apple Juice
You may be wondering "If I'm basically just juicing apples, what's the difference between apple cider and apple juice?" Well, as it turns out, there's no widely agreed-upon distinction. I tend to think that cider is simply unfiltered and spiced, whereas juice is just the juice. Here are few other explanations, from The Straight Dope:
"(1) There is no difference at all. (Source: large midwestern bottler.) Uncle Sam confirms that there is no legal distinction. In other words, it is all marketing booshwa. But see below."
"(2) The store-bought stuff is juice, the homemade stuff is cider. (Source: East Coast conglomerate; also, the old edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.) The product you buy from roadside stands usually has not been pasteurized. Consequently, it ferments over time, giving it a mildly alcoholic kick. What you buy in the store, in contrast, is pasteurized soon after crushing, preventing fermentation and resulting in a pleasant but kickless taste. The manufacturers call their product cider in the fall for marketing purposes."
"(3) Cider is made from apples that are picked early. (Source: Washington State outfit that claims to be the country's largest maker of juice and cider.) Early-harvest apples supposedly have higher acid and lower sugar content, producing a drink with a tangier taste. Thus true cider remains cider after processing because pasteurization doesn't affect the acid/sugar content. Therefore, the company claims, it's possible to make not only frozen cider concentrate, contrary to your assertion, but also "sludgy"--i.e., unfiltered, hence cloudy--apple juice. The guy I got all this from says his company is quite scrupulous about monitoring the acidity of its product and changing the labels accordingly."
Step 2: How Ya Like Them Apples?
I did my shopping at the Berkeley Bowl, a food market that is famous for its variety of produce. I ended up with a mix of apples, mostly inexpensive ones:
- 3 lbs of Red Delicious apples (the apple-y base)
- 2 lbs of Granny Smith apples (for tartness)
- 2 lbs of Shinko apple pears (for an interesting pear-y sweetness)
Step 3: Rinse, Cut, and Juice
This step went very quickly because I was able to use a juicer. I rinsed off the skins, quartered the apples, and fed them into the juicer. The citrus was quartered, peeled, and them fed into the juicer.
If you don't have a juicer, this step will be a bit more time consuming, but still tons of fun. Just wash the apples and then core them (you don't want apple seeds and their cyanide in your cider!) Now, you can use a food processor to puree them smooth, like apple sauce. Then, you pour the pureed apples into a piece of cheesecloth over your container, wrap it up, and carefully squeeze the juice into the container below. The oranges and lemons can be juiced by hand with a citrus reamer or another hand juicer.
Step 4: Blending and Seasoning
As you juice, you should sample the resulting cider. I juiced a handful of apples, mixed the juice into a big punch bowl, and took a little taste. Then, I'd add more juices from different apples and the citrus until I had the taste I wanted. The cider will change flavors in really nice ways as you craft your blend. I wanted mine full-bodied and very apple-tasting, but tart. The tartness is why the Granny Smith apples were used. The orange juice and lemon juice gave it that lighter, citrus flavor.
I grated in some a fresh clove and then added cinnamon and nutmeg. There was about a teaspoon or two of each, which added a subtle spicy flavor. Experiment!
The spices may clump up a bit, but a wire whisk made short work of them.
Step 5: Done!
I ended up with about a gallon and a half of delicious cider, which I set out in a punch bowl for a big meal. For a bit of garnish, you can add a cinnamon stick or let people spice or spike their concoction to taste.