It’s cider time!

Consider making your own fresh-squeezed apple cider.

The temperatures are lower now and bits of frost in the morning are signaling that fall is in the air. This means it must be cider time! Cider has been enjoyed for centuries. In 55 B.C. when the Romans invaded England, they noticed the local people drinking an amber-colored liquid. It was called cider and was made from apples.

When the English settlers came to America with their apple seeds for making apple cider, Cider time was born in the United States!

There are two forms of apple cider in the United States. The fermented alcoholic apple juice is frequently called “hard cider.” “Sweet cider” is the term generally used for non-alcoholic cider. Natural yeast in apples will ferment the apple juice into cider.

Fresh or unpasteurized apple juice or cider can cause foodborne illness. The E.coli O157:H7 is the foodborne bacteria that can cause this illness. The reason for this potential hazard is that the apples used in making cider do not have to be the perfect ones. The apples used tend to have spots and blemishes and are small in size, although the apples do have to be free from spoilage. Michigan State University Extension recommends the elderly, immune-compromised individuals and young children never drink fresh apple cider unless it has been pasteurized. Pasteurization is necessary to help reduce the possibility of E. coli foodborne illness.

Apple cider cannot be made and sold under the Michigan Cottage Food Law. Cider mills are required to have a license from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

To make apple cider at home, select apples that are firm and ripe. Choose a variety of sweet, tart and aromatic apples to make the cider. Generally, a bushel of apples will yield about three gallons of juice.

Before juicing the apples, the workspace and equipment needs to be washed, rinsed and sanitized. Hands need to be washed before starting.

Sort and wash apples in clean running water. Discard the spoiled apples. Core and cut the apples into chunks. Apples can be processed in a food chopper, blender or food processor. The apple pulp can be put into a clean, damp muslin sack or jelly bag and squeezed until the juice is out of the pulp. This juice can be preserved as apple juice without making it into cider, but it needs to be pasteurized by heating it to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

To make large quantities of apple cider, a fruit press will be essential.

The process of making “sweet cider” requires the freshly-pressed apple juice to ferment for three to four days at 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the “sweet cider” has aged, it needs to be pasteurized to kill the harmful foodborne illness pathogens.

To pasteurize the cider, heat it to at least 160-185 degrees Fahrenheit. Skim off the foam. Pour the hot cider into heated, clean and sanitized glass or plastic containers. Refrigerate immediately. The apple cider can be frozen.

Better yet, pour the hot cider into a mug and stir with a cinnamon stick, and enjoy! Nothing is sweeter that a mug of hot cider to take the chill off of a fall day.

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