Monday, October 26, 2015

Homemade Apple Cider with Ashmead and Roxbury Apples

In my last box of goodies from Frieda's Specialty Produce, I had some apples that I'd never heard of before. So I looked them up. Both the Ashmead Kernel Apples and the Roxbury apples were a variety of Orange Pippin apple.

Which tells me about as much as I knew before. I'm really not savvy about apple varieties, to be honest. I go to the farmers market or the store and when I see an apple variety I'm not familiar with, I'll ask if it's good for eating, sauce or pie, and then I know what I can use it for.

So ... when I started reading more about these apples, the one thing they had in common was that they were good for juice or cider. The Roxbury was the sweeter of the two.

I tasted both of them, and either would be fine for eating as-is, but I was on a mission to use them for something other than my afternoon snack.

So, I thought, let's give this a whirl. Juice.

But how? I have a juicer, but the first recipes I found all called for cooking the apples, then straining. Hmmm. If I'm going to cook them, I might as well make sauce. Then I found recipes that made an uncooked juice - or, if we're being technical, a cider, since what I made wasn't clear - it included some of the finer solids from the apples.

The recipes I looked at all included a whole lot of other stuff - cinnamon, allspice, maple syrup - which sounds good, but I wondered if they were really needed. And, seriously, they're not things that have to be added to the cider as you make it. If you want maple syrup in your cider, you can add a tablespoon to your glass and just stir it in.

So, I decided to go with a minimalist version. And I was happy I did. This stuff is pretty darned amazing.

Fresh Apple Cider

4 Ashmead Kernel apples
4 Roxbury Apples
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups water
Sugar (optional)

Cut the apples in half and remove the core, stem, and any bruised or nasty bits. I didn't peel them, but you can if you prefer*. Cut the apples into chunks that your blender can accommodate. I used a Vitamix, but any decent blender should be able to obliterate some apples.

Blend the apples with water and the pinch of salt until you have a smooth mash. You'll probably need to do this in batches. Try not to add too much water. It's easier to add water if it's too strong, but if you have a weak cider, there's no remedy for that.

Strain the pulp through several layers of cheesecloth, or a clean, lint-free kitchen towel. Or use a jelly bag. Remember that you're keeping the juice and getting rid of the pulp! Let the mixture drip into a bowl. If you're impatient, you can squeeze or mash a bit, but you really want to avoid pressing too much of the solids through the bag.

Taste your cider and add sugar, if you like. Mine didn't need any. If you think it's too strong, add water now, if you like. If you'll be serving over ice, you might want to leave it as is.

As my juice sat, a thin layer of white sediment settled to the bottom of the jar. While it was edible (nothing there but apples!) it had a raw-starch taste. So once the settling was done, I simply decanted to a new container and got rid of the starchy-flavored stuff.

As for the remaining pulp, you could cook it and perhaps squeeze out more juice, or you could make apple sauce or apple butter. If that's your plan, I suggest peeling* the apples in the first step so your sauce has a better consistency, without bits of peel. Unless you like that sort of thing.


I regularly receive produce from Frieda's Specialty Produce for my use on the blog.