This Year After Apple Picking, I Made My Own Cider

This fun fall project doesn't require any fancy tools — and we've got some great ideas for how to use the cider you make (or buy!).

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When the first snap of crisp fall air hits my face and the days start to get shorter, I’m ready for it! Immediately I am "whooshed" back in time to my family’s annual apple picking trip where we’d bike to a big apple orchard and load up on apples, cider and (of course) doughnuts. Then we’d spend the rest of the week cooking thw apples in all different ways (here are some ideas for that, if you want to do the same).

This year my husband, toddler and I took a trip to an orchard to create our own magical family memories. And aside from the wood-fired pizza and next-level hard cider, we managed to pick some apples too — and so the apple recipe-making has begun.

One thing I was determined to try this year was make my own cider. Cider, at its purest form, is ground-up apples pressed for their juice and served. (Alternatively, making apple juice requires a lot of filtering and pasteurizing to make it shelf-stable.) To start researching how to make cider at home, I watched handful of YouTube videos — many of them called for an apple press, which (despite the temptation) I don’t have room to own, so I started looking around my kitchen to see what I could do to keep it simple.

First I chopped four apples into 1-inch cubes — including the skin, core and all. Then I whizzed it into a fine slurry in my food processor.

The next step was to press it. I started with a French press which seemed cute and ideal thanks to the pour spout but I only got about 4 ounces from the four apples.

So I pivoted to working in batches by adding the apple pulp to a food-grade fine-mesh bag set inside a potato ricer. Ricers are built to handle a lot of pressure, so I squeezed as hard as I could.

My hands aren’t super strong, and I could tell I was going to tire out quickly. So I went to my tool cabinet and grabbed my small "quick grip" clamp, scrubbed it clean, and let it do the squeezing.

It worked like a charm and in four passes I had two-and-a-half cups of fresh cider from four apples! It was so exciting to find an additional use for my potato ricer and the cider was so fresh and bright. I only used one type of apple for the first batch, but and when I do it again I think I’ll do a blend to get more depth of flavor.

I also turned the leftover apple pulp into super-food mini muffins for my toddler because I’ll take any opportunity to save food scraps and turn them into another meal. You could also make this recipe with any sweet fruit or veggie pulp leftover from juicing. I retooled my recipe by taking inspiration from this recipe from The Kitchen; I cut it in half, added chia and hemp seeds, and reduced the sugar.

If you’re thinking to yourself, "Michelle. I’m literally never going to do that — you are so extra!" I hear you. (Though I still think you should try!) Here are a few other things you can do with cider that you picked up at the orchard or grocery store. Use it quickly; it has a short shelf-life.

You can, of course, make doughnuts. This apple cider doughnut recipe is one of the first desserts I got to make when I started working for the Food Network 11 years ago, and they are still by far the best cider doughnuts I’ve had. Or braise a pork shoulder or brisket by subbing half a gallon of cider for stock, and then turning the leftover juices in to a BBQ sauce.

Or if you put a boil cider down to a third of its original volume, you’ll get a deep flavorful syrup to add into cakes and pies, or drizzle on ice cream. I even added it to my mini muffins. Not only will you have an awesome syrup, but your home will smell incredible.

I boiled down a whole gallon of cider and ended up with two-and-half cups of syrup (it took nearly two hours of stirring every 10-15 minutes to keep the sugars from burning on the bottom of the pot). In the last 10 minutes of boiling, the bubbles got smaller and a lot more foam crept up the pot, so I stirred it more regularly and knew exactly when to cut the heat as it reached the right consistency. If you want to toss in a cinnamon stick for a little flavor boost, go for it! There’s no better way for it to officially feel like fall.

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