Making Apple Cider

Wooden cider press

When apples rippen in Iowa orchards, it’s time to make apple butter, applesauce, apple pie, and all things apple. Another option is apple cider! Besides being a great way to use an abundance of apples, it is also a great fall activity for family, friends, or neighborhood fun. Kids of all ages will enjoy the making and sipping!

Flawless apples are not needed for cider so small sized apples or those with blemishes are good candidates. Avoid using over ripe apples or apples with spoilage as both will cause the juice to ferment rapidly and ruin it. However, apples with a small amount of spoilage that can be be cut away are acceptable. Use mature apples as green, immature apples give cider a flat flavor.

There are no particular varieties to use for cider as it depends upon taste preferences. Gala, Fuji or similar varieties yield a sweeter cider whereas McIntosh, Pink Lady or other tart varieties offer more tartness. Blending sweet and tart varieites brings out the best of both.

Apple cider can be made in various ways. The most fun is derived from using a cider press. If you are lucky enough to own one, you know all about the set up and fun. A press may be availabe from a rental agency. In addition to a press, a crusher is very useful for grinding the apples to make pressing easier to extract the juice; in the absence of a crusher, a food processor will do the job. Begin by setting up the equipment (crusher and press) and making sure it is clean.  Also gather and wash buckets and jars or containers for the juice. Utensils and equipment can be sanitized after washing and rinsing by filling with or soaking in a mixture of 1 tablespoon household bleach per gallon of warm water for at least 1 minute.

Head to the orchard to pick apples from trees; do not use apples that have fallen to the ground. (Windfall apples are more likely to have come into contact with E. coli bacteria from animal or rodent feces.) A bushel of apples will yield about 3 gallons of juice.  Wash the apples carefully. After washing, cut the apples into quarters. It is not necessary to dry the apples or remove the cores and skins.  The cut apples go into the crusher where they are mashed by turning the handle on the crusher; the crushed apples fall into a mesh lined bag which is then loaded into the press. As the ratchet handle on the press pushes the press plate down, the juice begins to pour out of the press into a bucket within seconds. This process is repeated until all the apples have been pressed and apple remains composted. Some pulp or seeds may also come out of the press with the juice; to remove these particles, the juice can be put through a jelly bag which will remove most of it.

There are two options for the juice–apple juice or fermented juice (cider). If the juice will not be fermented, it should be pasteurized by heating the juice to 160°F; this will eliminate the possibility of foodborne illness from E coli or Salmonella.  After the juice cools, pour it into clean jars or containers. Juice can be refrigerated for up to five days. The juice can also be frozen or canned. If cider is desired, the juice can be fermented to make sweet cider, hard cider, or turned into vinegar. Directions for making these processes safely can be found in the University of Georgia publication, Making Apple Cider.

Homemade apple cider–fresh or fermented–is a delicious and satisfying way to celebrate fall!.

Pressing Apple Cider at Home. Michigan State University Extension.
Making Apple Cider. University of Georgia.

Reviewed and updated, 4-24, mg.

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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