20 October 2012

Homespun Necessities: Apple Cider

Apple Picking
This post is a mathematical breakdown of abundance. Follow closely.

{Autumn is synonymous for radiantly red maples and steaming mugs of apple cider, at least where I come from. Since Moeder Nature does a damn fine job on her own with the former, and I haven't found the cider of my dreams in Holland, I'm focusing on the latter. [I've tasted everything even sort of resembling the cloudy, brown-tinged drink. None of them is just right.] I want Christmas in a cup, spiced and warm.}


{On Wednesday, some pals and I went appel plukken with our little people at Olmenhorst, with the final goal being apple crumble, and my sacred cider.  Me: Ok. We need 94 apples total for the recipes. Anything beyond that is yours for eating. GO! [Fast forward three hours; muddy and heavily burdened with fruit, we turn towards our cars. I realize everyone is handing me FULL BAGS and make a less-than-genuine attempt to talk them out of it.] Once home, we counted to 224.}


Bingo. Further fodder for my new series on DIY edible necessities (or, at least, necessities in my kitchen).

I found this recipe from Katie at Chaos in the Kitchen that was exactly what I was seeking: simple, recommended by an identifiable person, and (discovered afterwards), delicious. I modified her recipe by adding a knob of ginger, and lessening the amount of orange and spices; the flavor was overpowering to me, so I ended up making and mixing in two batches of plain cider (no spices or orange) to counter it. In the end, it was beautiful. Harmonious, even. And then I made three more batches that were perfectly spiced.

Whether you have a long-running love affair with apple cider or have never had it but are a cinnamony-nutmeggy-autumny kinda person, make it. It's just a little prep, with a lot of passive stovetop time... perfect for saturating your home with the most beautiful medley of aromas on a Sunday afternoon. I've made five batches now (nearly 30 liters!), along with two apple crumbles and a big batch of apple chips. My house has smelled like spice shop heaven for the past two days... I'm nearly drunk on the air wafting out of my oven. (OVEN?!?, you say? Yep. It's new, shiny, and, most importantly, in my kitchen and functioning.)

The latter two recipes will come, as well as a few more apple-centric treats (I still have over 60 apples left). The crumbles and first batches of cider were parceled out and quickly consumed, the apple chips are nearly gone. I have eleven liters of cider left, some of which I will drink, some I will share, and some I will freeze so the mister can have a taste upon his return from his businessman trip.

Apple Picking
Apple Picking
Apple Picking
Apple Picking
Apple Picking
Apple Picking
Apple Picking
Apple Picking
apple jam
Apple Picking
Apple Cider
Spiced Apple Cider
just slightly adapted from Chaos in the Kitchen
prep time: 5 min | total cook time: 3 hours + cooling
yield: about 2 liters
supplies needed: large stockpot, potato masher, large sieve, cheesecloth
  • 8-15 apples (completely depends on size), preferably different types (sweet + tart)
  • 1/2 small orange, or 1/4 large
  • 1/8-1/2 cup brown sugar, depending on sweetness level of your apples
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 whole nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp whole cloves
  • water to cover
  1. Wash and quarter apples and orange-do not worry about removing peels, seeds, or stems. Toss into a large stock pot; I filled mine just about to the top with quartered fruit without counting.
  2. Add brown sugar (I started with 1/8 cup, you can always add more later).
  3. Add spices, and cover with water.
  4. Bring to a boil and boil uncovered for at least an hour. You will probably need to lower the burner heat a bit to keep it from spilling over, especially if you fill your pots like I did...
  5. Cover and reduce to a simmer. Allow juice to simmer for at least two hours. **It's important to cover here, or you will end up with too much reduction and a very syrupy end product. Also, don't cut any time out, or you won't break down the apples enough.
  6. Uncover and use a potato masher to roughly mash content of pot... everything should disintegrate very easily. If it doesn't, keep simmering.
  7. When cider is ready allow to cool then strain through a large sieve into a clean pitcher or pot, using a spoon to scrape the mush away from the sieve to get as much liquid out as possible. If you feel like a lot of cider is getting "trapped" in the mush, you can strain everything through a cheesecloth and twist and squeeze to get every last drop. You'll get a decent amount this way, although you may need several cloths, or to wash them in between batches. It takes a little while, but you'll end up with significantly less waste. (Mine went from a small mixing bowlful to a coffee mugful after squeezing through cheesecloth.)
  8. Serve hot- as is, or garnished with a cinnamon stick, whipped cream, caramel sauce (or all of the above). Store in the refrigerator and reheat as desired, or freeze for future indulgence.