For making hard cider, you need to start with fresh apple cider without any preservatives just as you would to make vinegar which has many uses and benefits.
For this reason it is best to first make your own apple cider or when in season you might be able to buy it from an orchard. Before you can learn how to make hard cider, you will need to know how to make cider without any preservatives or at least where you can purchase it. Fresh apple cider is nothing like the commercial brands.
Apple cider is the extracted juice from fresh apples which is also called sweet cider. When making hard cider you must reach an alcohol content between two and seven per cent. Hard cider is usually made from apples and pears; apples the most common around here. First to make sweet cider ripe apples are stored for a week to ten days to mellow and soften; this is called sweating. They will get sweeter and give the cider a better flavor. Then the apples need to be thoroughly washed and ground to a fine pulp. When this pulp is pressed the apple liquid will gush out.
Small kitchen juicers work well for making hard cider in small quantities; they separate the pulp from the juice by centrifugal force. The larger appliances work like the traditional cider presses; chopping, shredding and grinding the apples and then squeezing out the juice. Apple presses are very expensive and are not worth purchasing unless you have your own apple orchard or have access to a large quantity of free or very cheap apples.
When making hard cider, the fresh squeezed cider is light at first but as soon as it hits the air it instantly oxidizes into its characteristic brown color; it is pulpy and thick. Unpasteurized cider can be refrigerated for about a week. If you want it to keep longer pasteurize it to stop the fermentation; heat it to 185F degrees. A froth will develop; skim off the top and pour into hot sterilized jars. Refrigerate it immediately; a gradual cool down to affect the flavor. You can also pour into plastic freezer containers and freeze for up to 6 months.
If making hard cider, by allowing unpasteurized sweet cider to set longer at room temperature, bubbles start to form around the edges; alcohol is now forming and it will have a tangy taste. Leave a while and you will get hard cider (or dry cider); leave longer and eventually it will turn to vinegar. This is a very simple way to make a little hard cider in your kitchen. Use airlock corks (available at wine supplies stores) for you bottle or jugs. Fill the jugs and let set at room temperature. In about 8 to 10 days it will start to foam over the top; clean off the bottle. This will not be a sweet cider any longer and the longer it stands the harder it will become.
Traditionally making hard cider was made by pouring sweet cider into large oak barrels. They were stored in cold basements and left to set there to age. Sugar in the form of honey, raisins or molasses was added to increase the alcohol level. Modern commercial cider makers began to use some of the wine equipment to produce a more uniform quality of cider. They add sugar, honey, yeast, sulfur dioxide, tannic acid, calcium carbonate, pectin and carbon dioxide. For commercial fermentation, it generally takes five to six weeks. The cider is then bottled and left to age at least six months.
Below are some great recipes to use when making hard cider recipe or your homemade hard cider. Learning more about canning apples for applesauce, pie filling and delicious apple butter.
SPICY MULLED CIDER RECIPE
Combine cider, honey, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg in a saucepan.
Heat until honey is dissolved and mixture is hot.
Pour into mugs and garnish with cinnamon stick and orange rinds stuck with whole cloves.
CHERRY BERRY SLUSH RECIPE
With blender, process berries with juice until smooth; strain and discard seeds.
Process cherries with juice until smooth.
Combine raspberry puree, cherry puree and apple juice; freeze until firm.
For each serving scrape frozen juice mixture to measure ¾ cup slush; dump in glass.
Add ½ cup lemon lime drink to slush and garnish with lime slice.
CRANBERRY TEA RECIPE
Combine water, red hots, sugar and cloves; bring to boil and stir until sugar melts and set aside.
Combine apple cider and cranberry juice cocktail; add to boiled mixture.
Serve as hot tea or cold in glasses; garnish with pieces of sliced oranges.
Raspberry Cider Recipe
Peel around the apples to make a thin coil of the peel; cut to make ten 6 inch long pieces.
Dip peel coils in lemon juice to prevent browning; set aside on paper towels.
Pour 2/3 cup of hard cider into champagne flutes; add 2 teaspoons raspberry liqueur to each flute.
Garnish with a piece of coiled apple peel.
EGG NOG RECIPE (with apple cider)
Combine milk, apple cider, sugar, eggs, cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg in saucepan.
Cook over medium heat stirring constantly until mixture reaches 160F degrees; DO NOT BOIL.
Pour mixture into mugs and top each with whipped cream; sprinkle with extra nutmeg.
HOT APPLE CIDER
Mix the cider, orange and lemon juice in saucepan; add sugar.
Combine spices in cheesecloth bag and add to liquid; bring to boil and boil for 5 minutes.
Remove spice bag and pour in mugs; serve hot with cinnamon stick garnish.
RED APPLE CIDER
Combine cider, grenadine, cloves and nutmeg in saucepan; heat until hot DO NOT BOIL.
Ladle into mugs; add 1 tablespoon rum to each.
Garnish each with cinnamon stick.