Apple Picking: A Beginner's Guide To Homemade Cider
There's a huge difference between the apple cider or apple juice you get from the store and the quality, handcrafted version you can make in your own home. Despite what people assume, it's not that difficult to produce a high quality beverage like apple cider that tastes about as good, if not better than a store brand. Much like that homemade apple pie you pulled right out of your oven is above and beyond what sits prepackaged and bundled in the store, creating a blend of delicious apple cider is just as possible. All you need to learn are the basic techniques to begin a fun tradition for the harvest season, and recipes you can tweak with your personal touches.
Picking your apples is more important than ever if you're making homemade cider. Though it's perfectly acceptable to use any type of apple you like, most people like their cider sweet. If you don't know what type of apple you like best, test out a few before you make the large purchase necessary to create your cider. A couple major apples that traditionally work great for cider are Red Delicious and Fuji apples. When you're ready to buy, the next step is knowing how many to get. The general rule is that a bushel of apples, which usually contains about 40 lbs., typically makes anywhere from 2 to 3 gallons of apple cider, depending on your preparation process.
There are a couple ways to prepare apple cider. It really depends on whether you're making the non-alcoholic apple cider or hard cider that contains alcohol and requires fermentation. We will be focusing on making regular apple cider here. The simplest technique is to boil your apples in a large stockpot or crockpot with enough water to cover all the apples by about two inches. Just cut up your apples into quarters, pile them in the pot, add water as well as any sugar, spices like cinnamon or even cinnamon sticks, and let the apples boil uncovered. After an hour or so, cover the pot and let the apples cook for two to four more hours on a low heat setting. Once finished, simply strain the entire stockpot through a fine sieve or cheesecloth to separate the liquid from the solid chunks and mash still remaining. Continue to drain until solids and residues have been removed, then add sugars or spices if necessary, bottle up your cider and refrigerate until cold.
Just Add Juice
If you don't think you have the time, patience or convenient cooking equipment like a stainless steel cookware set, there are ways to simplify the process by substituting fresh apples for apple juice. It's an easy way to whip up a classic fall taste, and works particularly great for warm apple cider. Just add up to 5 cups of apple juice to a smaller pot, along with a dash of cinnamon, some nutmeg (or both) as well as a little extra sugar if you really have a sweet tooth. Heat and stir the homemade concoction until it's nice and warm. Then add garnishes like apple slices and enjoy.
Making homemade apple cider is the perfect way to put everything you gathered from apple picking to use. And if your apple cider recipe turns out well, consider trying it out on pears or peaches; the process works as well for fruits other than apples.