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Early fall can usually find fruit growers looking for a way to utilize the last of their produce. After all the jams and jellies are made, pie apples frozen and apple sauce canned, there is still a wonderful use for the last of the apples. Apple cider is a delicious beverage that can be drunk hot or cold. A tasty cup of homemade mulled cider, or applejack has been known to chase away even the most horrid cases of pre-winter blues. Homemade apple cider is inexpensive and easy to make.

The most important item you will need to make apple cider, besides the apples of course, is a cider press. These can be bought from mail order houses and some country stores. But if you run into a problem finding a traditional press, a scissor style car jack and a few boards can be used to create a simple press that works just as well. To do this you will need to make a strong frame, a cloth bag, a slotted tray and a bucket to collect the juice. The frame should have a strong bottom platform about an inch larger than the tray you will be using. It will need two by fours centered and bolted to the platform with the top connected by a third two by four. It is wise to bolt your platform to give it added strength. You will also need a board the size of your tray. The tray will be placed on the platform with the bagged apples in the tray. Place the board over the apples and set the jack on the board. The top of the jack will be placed under the top two by four to give it leverage. Then you simply need to turn the jack to apply pressure to the apples. Be sure to place the bucket under the slot in your tray, centering it so all the apple juice will make it into the bucket. As with any process used to process produce, always be sure that all items you are using are cleaned and sterilized before you begin.

Making apple cider is a simple process of separating the juice from the apples. You should use a variety of apples to allow each to contribute its own taste. Sweet apples such as Delicious and Cortland should be used for the bulk of the cider. But adding mildly tart apples such as Winesap, Jonathon or MacIntosh will really perk up the taste. It is perfectly alright to use bruised apples, but check for mold, rot or worms. Thoroughly wash the apples and remove the stems. Chop or grind them into a fine pulp. To save time, putting them through a food processor works great. Save any juice to be added to the cider.

The chopped apples are what home beverage makers call pomace. This will be used to extract the cider. Place all the pomace into a clean pillow case or cheesecloth and place into the cider press. This is not a process that can be rushed, so give yourself plenty of time. Apply press and wait until most of the juice has stopped dripping down. Then simply apply more pressure. In the long run, your patience during this process will be greatly rewarded by increased yields and a clearer cider.

When you have finished pressing your apples, the cider can be poured into clean glass jars or used as a mixer for other cider recipes. If you are pouring it into jars, filter the juice through several layers of cheesecloth to improve the storage quality and create a clear cider. The minute the juice is pressed from the pomace, the flavor of the cider will began maturing. It will start out as a sweet, tangy tartness and progress to a mellow full bodied fruity taste. If it is not properly stored it will progress into vinegar. Cider will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks or can be frozen for approximately a year. It can be pasteurized by heating it quickly to 170 degrees and immediately pouring it into canning jars. The jars should be sealed and processed in a water bath for five minutes. If you choose to make cider vinegar for salad dressings or other use, you can simply open a jar of your cider and allow it to stand at a temperature of 70 degrees for about five weeks. It will then have turned to hard cider and shortly after will be vinegar.

Mulled cider can be made by adding 10 cloves, 1 cup of maple syrup, 4 cinnamon sticks and nutmeg to a quart of cider. Bring the cider and cloves to a boil. Add the syrup and stir until thoroughly mixed. Pour into mugs with a cinnamon stick in each and top with nutmeg. Applejack is a form of hard cider that can be made by placing a container of cider where it will freeze. A slushy ice will form on the top. Removing the top layer of ice will give you a concentrated form of hard cider. Remember when making applejack that with this drink, the alcohol content has been increased well beyond what the fermentation process will produce. Federal regulations that have been in effect since 1979 allow adult citizens to make all the hard cider they want, but the selling of this beverage or distillation to make hard liquor is illegal.