DIY Apple Cider
Before there was pumpkin-spice everything, there was sweet, simple, naturally delicious apple cider. When the half-gallon jugs show up in our produce section, they’re a harbinger of fall and everything it brings — cooler weather, holiday gatherings, and cozy meals. Drinking cider feels like a celebration of all that and the apple-picking season, and that’s why it’s so fun to make it yourself: You can mix and match your favorite apples to get the balance of sweet and tart flavors you like. And it’s a cheerful seasonal project to do with friends and kiddos.
In this recipe, we mull whole chunks of apple — peel and all — with baking spices and oranges for two hours. We use juicy, honey-forward SweeTangos and slightly tart Honeycrisps, a combination that provides the layered complexity you want in a cider. There’s a small amount of brown sugar in there too, and we like the way it complements the warm spices and adds some molasses-y depth to the cider’s already rich sweetness.
As the apples simmer away on the back of the stove, they fill the house with the most welcoming smell — it’s autumn distilled. Once you strain it, the cider has a tawny hue that’s gorgeous in a glass mug. We might describe the flavor as apple pie juice: the mulling process smooths out some of the edges, creating a delightfully sweet-tart sipper with just a hint of orange and all the warmth of the spices. It definitely makes you feel all toasty inside.
Once you have a couple quarts of apple cider, you can do all kinds of things with it. It’s great served warm with a cinnamon stick swizzler. We also find it very refreshing over ice. And if you’re thinking of adding some booze, it’ll be delicious spiked with a floral gin or spicy bourbon. On the batched side of things, you might give our apple cider sangria a try.
Yield: 2 quarts / 8 cups
DIY Apple Cider
In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, combine the Honeycrisp apples, SweeTango apples, orange halves, cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, dark brown sugar, and water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 2 hours.
Using tongs, remove and discard the orange halves. Using a potato masher, mash the apples until all the large parts are broken up. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 hour more.
Line a fine mesh strainer with cheesecloth, and place it over a large bowl. Pour the apple mixture through the cheesecloth. Gently press the pulp into the strainer with a metal spoon to extract the cider. Discard the pulp.
Serve the apple cider warm or cold. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days and reheated as desired.