The Hunt for Apple Cider
Autumn is rapidly approaching and it is time for my annual search for a local unfiltered Apple Cider. Apples grow in abundance in Northern New Mexico believe it or not. For half a century there was even an orchard here near Cochiti Pueblo called Dixon Apple that was the creator of the Champagne Apple variety (sad if you never had one as the orchard burned during Wildfires in 2011).
I love cider drinks in the cool months. Mulled Ciders, Shanties, Dry Cider, Hard Cider, Soft Cider: you name it I am on it. My son loves to help when doing mulled ciders at home and sitting by the fire at our house or beside the smoker outside as we slow smoke some big dead animal
So,what should you look for when searching for apple cider? That’s a great question as with so many things, definitions and regulation vary. But here are a couple things to know….
Apple Cider vs. Apple Juice
The Food Police haven;t gotten a hold of this one yet (guess they are too worried about aging cheese on wood). But the general understanding is that “cider” is cloudy and unfiltered whereas “juice” is clear. Juice starts as cider (picked, washed, pressed) then basically filtered and dehydrated into “concentrate” for mass production and reconstituted either by the bottler or at home from a little packet.
Filtered Vs Unfiltered
You knew it was next! Pretty simple though sediment or not.
Pasteurized vs Unpasteurized
We all know what pasteurization is: heated a product about 165 degrees for 10 seconds to kill off any and all bad stuff. When buying Apple cider at a market most of what you will find is pasteurized cider with the rare occasion it is not pasteurized. Buying direct from the orchard or at the local Farmer’s Market you most likely to get unpasteurized liquid love. But here is where it gets tricky and you have to become a bit of a detective yourself. Ask questions about the orchard, the process especially washing and sanitation. A couple years ago unpasteurized cider was found to the the culprit in an E coli outbreak. How? animals grazing in the field, or apple picked up off the ground can contribute to this. So don’t be shy about asking your apple grower what is happening at their orchard.
This simply means heat was not used to extract the juice from the pulp
Hard vs Soft (sweet)
Not entirely meaning to go down the porn path here but there is just no avoiding it.. Hard cider = alcoholic, Soft or sweet cider = nonalcoholic. Leave soft cider in a open container for a couple days and guess what….natural yeast pop in start doing their thing with the natural sugars in the cider, it ferments and becomes hard. Told you it was unavoidable. Don;t want the kids to get into the hard stuff.
Unfiltered, unpasteurized cider is good refrigerated for about a week. If it is pasteurized, you can double or triple that time. Do also keep in mind if you hear the cider for drinks, you pasteurized it yourself and if you added booze to it while cooking it for say a Mulled Cider, alcohol is a natural preservative and you extended the shelf life again.
Want to make your own? Its really not hard to do, but can be expensive. Here is what you need.
- 11-13 pounds of ripe juicy apple (the variety or combination of varieties is up to you, but don;t forget to make notes)
- Food mill or Food processor
- Cheese cloth
- Wide mouth food grade container
- Clean sanitized bottles
11-13 pounds of apples will yield about a gallon of juice (kinda not very cost effective but hey its fun to DIY). Chop the apples up: there is no need peel them as you’ll want to flavor in your end result. It’s really no even necessary to core the apple but that is up to you. Place apple you the machine and run until the apples are pulverized. Put your cheese cloth in the strainer. put in the contents of your food processor into the cheese cloth and let strain.(if using a foo mill you’ll of course have to do this over the wide mouth container). There ya go!
What to do with your fresh pressed cider? My favorite is the aforementioned Mulled (spiced) Cider.
- 24 ounces Apple Cider
- 8 oz “dark” spirit”
- 1 orange
- 15 cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks (make sure it’s ceylon cinnamon not cassia bark)
- Crock Pot
- Optional Saucepan
Crock Pot method. Cut up orange into slices, place cloves into the slices. Place all ingredients in the crock pot and set to high. Wait, wait wait wait (it’s a Crock Pot!!)
Stove Top Method: Same as above but add to a medium save pan and heat of medium heat just to a boil, the reduce heat. let simmer for 10-15 minutes. Then remove from heat and pour into the Crock Pot.
when ready to serve, ladle you cider into your favorite mug, and curl up on the couch or your deck in the cool evening air
Happy Autumn All!!!