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
"(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
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
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.