This morning, I decided I should learn how to make (non-alcoholic) apple cider. Our trees produced a lot of apples this year, and I love cider.
However, like most people, I don't have a cider press, and nor do I have a juicer. So I checked in the kitchen for stand-in equipment, and a couple of hours later I had a pitcher full of fresh, thick, delicious apple cider from homegrown apples. Here's what I did:
Food processor, high-powered blender, or something else capable of producing apples puree.
Cheesecloth, preferably lots of it (though it's possible that a sieve would also work- or maybe coffee filters?).
Pitcher/bowl/container for juice. And something else to put the dry pulp into.
Maybe a rubber band.
Apples. I read somewhere that apples are 65% juice by weight, and that seemed to match pretty well with my input/output ratio.
Variations: I haven't done this, but you could certainly add in fresh ginger or orange rind when you're pureeing the apples.
Here's the theory: you need to break the apple down into something soft enough that (since you don't have a press) you can squeeze the juice out of the pulp by hand.
My method is below. You might need to do several batches. (Sorry I don't have a step-by-step... it was very messy and I didn't know if it would work, so I didn't want to bring the camera in.)
- Wash your apples. If they're homegrown, be sure to cut out any questionable bits.
- It may surprise you to hear that you don't actually have to core the apples (Snopes has the relevant information), but if it makes you uncomfortable, go ahead. It'll just take a lot longer. Otherwise, just cut the apples into small enough pieces that you can feed them into your food processor.
- If your food processor is better than mine, you may have a puree by now. If so, great! If not, scrape all of the little apple bits from the food processor into your high-powered blender and blend away. If your blender came with a piece that helps you shove reluctant food bits into the blade, you'll need it.
- Now that you have lovely juicy apple mush, it's time to filter the juice from the pulp. Cut a piece of cheesecloth, perhaps two feet square, and spread it over the mouth of your juice pitcher. I put a rubber band around it and pushed down in the middle, producing the effect of a cheesecloth bowl suspended in the mouth of the pitcher.
- Glop maybe 1/3 cup of apple stuff into the cheesecloth.
- If you're inhumanly patient, you might just be able to let the juice drip-filter out into the pitcher. But since that will take a ridiculously long time, carefully pick up the cheesecloth and hold the edges together, so that the whole thing dangles from your hand like a full water balloon held by the knot (this picture that I found on Google might help explain).
- Gently twist or squeeze from the top to the bottom of the cheesecloth so that the juice drips out into the pitcher. (If you squeeze too hard, you'll spurt pulp into the pitcher. That's okay, you can repeat this process to re-filter if you don't like pulp.)
- Open the cheesecloth and empty out the dry pulp- into the compost, or into a container for future use (I bet it will be good in muffins, or maybe as fruit leather).
- Repeat steps 4-8 with all of your apple pulp.
Drink it, it's delicious!
If you have a lot of pulp, like me, you'll want to stir before you pour.
Hot Spiced Cider
Now put your lovely apple juice in a pot on the stove. Add cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, chunks of fresh ginger, orange rind, perhaps some peppercorns if you're feeling daring.
Bring slowly to a boil over low heat.
Scoop out all of the spices with a sieve, or just ladle around them as you help yourself to a steaming cup.
(Note: I'm not positive about the use of the term 'cider' here. Wikipedia leads me to believe that cider is defined as a fermented beverage, but a trip to the juice aisle of a grocery store argues otherwise. For a long time, I thought only hot, spiced cider was truly cider. Does anyone know the exact and proper definition?)