Apple picking season is pure joy in the fall, and the smell of a homemade apple pie baking in the oven conjures up images of curling up by the fireplace on a cold autumn evening drinking mulled cider. Apple cider is much more than a seasonal beverage—for many families, like maple sugaring, it is a treasured tradition and a way of life. Hot or cold, spiced or plain, apple cider is a treat for all the senses.
In many parts of the world, “cider” indicates a fermented beverage, but in the US and most of Canada, cider normally refers to an unfermented, unfiltered, sometimes unpasteurized form of apple juice. Mulled cider is apple cider mixed with spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves and served warm.
Hard cider was once America’s most popular alcoholic beverage and it is making a strong comeback with craft cideries. Applejack is distilled apple cider, made even “harder” into a spirit. While hard cider contains about 4% – 6% alcohol, applejack contains as much as 30% alcohol or 60 proof!
Are there health benefits to drinking apple cider?
You bet! Because apple cider comes straight from the pressed fruit, you get many plant-based micronutrients and antioxidants present in fresh apples which are excellent for heart health.
Apple cider can help you stay hydrated and it helps alleviate constipation and and all those polyphenols are great at chasing away free radicals which cause cell damage.
While it tends to be high in natural sugar, apple cider contains some fiber, a healthy dose of vitamins A and C, along with minerals such and calcium, iron, and potassium. An 8 ounce serving of apple cider contains 120 calories, 0.3 grams of fat, 28 grams of carbohydrate, and 24 grams of sugar.
- By the time of the American Revolution, one in every ten farms in New England operated its own cider mill.
- September 30 is National Cider Day in the US. In the UK, it’s November 18th, the date when legendary William Tell shot an apple off his son’s head.
- It takes approximately 36 pieces of fruit to make one gallon of apple cider.
- In the US, cider is categorized as wine. Most likely because the process more closely resembles wine making than beer making.
- In the 14th Century, it is said children were baptized in cider, as it was cleaner than the water.
- President John Adams drank a glass of cider every morning because he believed it promoted good health—he lived to be 90!
Don’t Throw Away the Peels… Make Apple Scrap Jelly
I compost everything I can and very little goes into the trash can. However there are ways to use the peelings and scraps of some fruits and veggies to make delicious jellies and toppings. So, save those cores and peels from apple pie-making this fall and try your hand at creating a delicious jelly that’s fairly easy to make, and tasty too. This recipe uses no pectin—the pectin in the scraps, cores and peels combined with lemon juice will set this jelly nicely.
- Apple peels and cores from about any variety of 20 apples
- 6 cups water
- Fresh squeezed lemon juice – 1 tablespoon for every 2 cups of liquid
- Measure the amount of liquid you have and use 1/2 cup of sugar for every cup of liquid.
- Add peels and cores to a 5-quart stockpot.
Add the water and bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes (Don’t worry about the seeds, they will not be harmful as they will not be consumed).
Strain juice using cheesecloth or a jelly bag into a large bowl or container. You should get about 5 cups of juice, and resist the urge to squeeze the pulp to get liquid out of it, otherwise your jelly will be cloudy.
Compost the pulp!
- Let the juice sit overnight to allow sediment to settle to the bottom.
- Next, add the strained juice to a stockpot (be sure not to add the sediment!).
- Add the sugar and lemon juice and bring to a rolling boil, then allow to simmer until liquid has reduced, about 30 minutes.
- Test by dropping a teaspoon of the mixture in some ice-cold water. If it wrinkles and is firm, it is ready. If it’s still syrupy, continue to cook it. It will set as it cools.
- Skim foam off the top and ladle the jelly in hot, sterile, ½ pint jelly jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Once the jars are filled, use a clean, damp rag and wipe the rims. Inspect the jars for any nicks or cracks (dispose of any that are cracked).
- Next, put the lids on and tighten down the rings. Carefully transfer jars to a water bath canner and process for 10 minutes. Remove jars and allow to cool completely on the counter.
- Next, check for seals. If one didn’t seal properly, simply use the jelly right away and store in the fridge.
You can now label your jars of jelly—give them as gifts to friends and family!
DEHYDRATED APPLE SUGAR
- Apple Peelings Only from about 20 apples, any variety – Dehydrate on the lowest setting of your oven or dehydrator
- Once the peelings are dehyrated, put them in a Vitamix or hi-powered blender and pulverize into a powder. Pour into a bowl.
- Add Cinnamon – 1 T and Sugar – 1 Cup
- Mix mix well and transfer and store in an air-tight container.
- Use as a muffin topping, in oatmeal or sprinkle a little on toast!
4 pounds Granny Smith or Macintosh apples, peeled, cored, and quartered
1 cup water
1 cup apple cider
brown sugar to taste
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
Cook apples in the liquid until soft. Pass through a food mill or push through a fine-mesh strainer and note how many cups you are getting. You do this so you can determine how much sugar you need. Add up to 1/2 cup brown sugar for each cup of puree — usually less, depending on how sweet you want it.
Add spices, rind, and lemon juice and cook over very low heat until thick and dark brown. This may take 3 to 4 hours. If not to be used within a week or two, make sure to can or freeze.
Some recipes and apple cider trivia were borrowed and adapted from the Farmer’s Almanac