Outside the USA, cider refers to a fermented alcoholic beverage. In the USA we call that Hard Cider.
The main difference between Apple Cider and Apple Juice is filtration. Apple juice has been excessively filtered to attain a clear liquid. Apple cider is a form of raw apple juice that has not been filtered to remove pulp and sediment.
Making your own apple cider is very simple. This is an easy process for making un-fermented apple cider, making hard cider, fermented apple cider is a tad trickier but certainly not rocket science.
Selecting the Right Apples
The first step is in selecting the right apples. Red apples work best – yellow and green tart varieties such as granny smith and so forth will also work , but with varying results as they are generally not as sweet. Honeycrisp is one of several exceptions to this rule. Remove any blemishes and reject any apples that are under ripe or over ripe.
Sweet apples are best, they eliminate the need for additional sugar. Commercially made cider is generally not as sweet or tasty as home made because they do not take the time to sort the apples , they frequently use under-ripe apples. If you are going to use seconds or apples harvested off the ground be sure to remove any bruised spots and evict any worms. One bad apple can ruin the whole batch.
Sweet apples such as Fuji, Rome, gala are best – if possible it is better to use a mixture of several varieties, not just one type of apple.
You can get up to 20 quarts of apple cider from a bushel of apples, the juiciness of the apple is of course a factor, so on the average expect anywhere from 12 to 16 quarts. A bushel is 48 lbs., so assuming you are harvesting much smaller amounts reduce the ratio exponentially.
Before beginning you’ll want to wash any equipment, in particular the jars and lids, but also any other tools you will be using.
Wash the containers and tools in hot, soapy water and rinse thoroughly. The jars should be boiled kept in hot water until they are used. Keeping the jars hot will not only help kill off or prevent bacteria growth but will also prevent the jars from cracking or shattering when you fill them with the hot apple cider.
Preparing and Processing the Apples
Wash and cut your apples, remove the core and cut the apple flesh into small chunks, Peeling the apple skin is not absolutely necessary as the skin will be separated in the mashing process.
You can use a juicer if you have one available, but much of the pulp will be eliminated in which case you will end up with apple juice- not true cider.
Put your apple chunks in a pot of water and boil them. there should be enough water to cover the apples by at least 2 inches.
Once a steady rolling boil is attained turn the heat down, just a tad to medium. You do not want it too hot for too long so as to avoid caramelizing the natural sugars in the apple. Boil them on medium until the apple chunks are soft all the way through.
Making Apple Cider
At this point you want to separate the juice from excess pulp, skins, seeds and so forth. You don’t want to eliminate it all – unless of course you are making apple juice. True all natural Apple Cider should be a little cloudy. You can use a sieve, strainer or what have you.
Leftover apple pulp can be used to make Apple Butter, apple sauce or even Fruit Leathers.
A natural apple cider is always best, so I prefer to use a colander, which allows just enough sediment to slip through. Some people suggest using a sieve or cheese cloth , which does not yield a Cider that is as natural and pulpy – if that is what you’d prefer than by all means a sieve or cheese cloth is just dandy.
After chilling the cider for a day or two, pour off the clear liquid and discard the sediment from the bottom. If you are at all familiar with Wine Making and know how to “rack” a wine, the same process can be used for cider. However, once again – you don’t want to loose all the sediment – you want the finest particles to remain in the cider.
Heat the apple cider to a low simmering boil in a large pot. If you used sweet apples, not tart ones, you shouldn’t need any added sugar. Add some cinnamon and/or allspice if you’d like at this point. The cider should be hot, but not boiling, keep it hot till you put it in the jars. Fill the jars and process them in the a hot water bath. Be sure to leave about 1/4 inch head space in the jars.
Once the jars are removed form the hot water bath allow them to cool over night.
Check the seals once they’ve cooled, be sure that the lids are slightly indented – sucked downwards. You can do this by pressing gently in the center with your finger. If it pops back up it is not properly sealed.
Do not save these jars for very long if not properly sealed, you can still use any like this – but use them first and do refrigerate them right away.You can also re-heat and re-jar them with another lid.