I’m still reeling (I don’t think that is the right word), ummm… let’s say excited instead, about Christmas, the New Year, and the cold. It seems that I still have all this running through my mind right now. I loved the English Wassail recipe I posted a few weeks ago. I guess I’m still thinking about those traditional rustic winter drinks. And you know, I had the thought “what if I didn’t want to buy my apple cider for the wassail? What would I do?” Well, if you asked yourself that question then our thoughts are pretty much aligned.
Just as with the wassail, apple cider is it an incredibly easy dish to make. Well, I want to explain the difference between hard cider and apple cider (also called cider, sweet cider, and, to offer a distinction, soft cider). Hard apple cider is an alcoholic beverage (hard is an adjective that is often used to describe alcohol FYI). Whereas apple cider is the nonalcoholic drink (made from apples, spices, and water) that you are learning how to make today.
Okay, with that brief distinction out-of-the-way, let me show you exactly how simple this dish is to make!
Non-Alcoholic Homemade Apple Cider
To make a good apple cider, you will need a Crock-pot – slow cooker (or a big pot that you can leave on your stove – at a low heat – for the next few hours), 10 large apples (my brother and I have completely different views on what is a large apple, so check out this link bestapples.com/trade-and-export-marketing/grades-sizing/ for a nice explanation – by large I mean a 12 ounce apple), 2 large oranges, 10 cloves, 5 large cinnamon sticks, and 1/4 teaspoon (3 grams) of ground nutmeg.
Cut the apples into quarters and place them in the slow cooker.
Peel both oranges and place the orange slices into the Crock-pot. If you like a more bitter flavor, add as much peel as you like. I usually add 1/4 of an orange peel to the pot. I prefer the sweeter flavor. Especially if I am going to use the apple cider for a wassail.
Now, toss in the cloves, cinnamon sticks, and ground nutmeg.
Here comes one of the most important parts. It is essential that you get the right amount of water. I recommend that you fill up the slow cooker with water until you get to the 4-quart line. Lots of people may tell you that you just need to cover the fruit with water, and I think this is a good rule of thumb. But I’ve often had a problem with this (please correct me if you know why I’m having this problem!). Let me try to explain.
Have you ever tried to pack a suitcase without folding your clothes? (If you have never traveled, first I recommend it and second I’m sure you’ve tried to throw things away before. Everything depends on the organization.) You can’t fit nearly as much inside. I know I just repeated this in my little comment, but everything depends on /how/ you put everything away. Theoretically, the volume shouldn’t matter but this is a problem I’ve encountered before. So that is why I recommend that you fill the slow cooker up until it reaches the 4 quarts (3.78 liters) line. (This recipe is easily scaled. After your first attempt, you’ll know exactly how much water to use.) Can you see the difference between these two? The lighter colored drink had /WAY/ too much water. Alright, I’ll admit it. In this one, the problem isn’t just the water content. I also didn’t crush the fruit, but we haven’t arrived at that step yet. Even without crushing the fruit imagine how watery that will taste when you drink it! And that is why the amount of water you use is so important.
End Quick Aside
Well, with everything in the Crock-Pot set it at the low setting. Most slow cooker’s low setting takes between 6-8 hours before it changes to the warm setting. We need to let the cider cook for 9 hours. At the ninth hour, change the setting to warm.
Now use a cheesecloth or a colander and pour the apple cider into a pitcher or a bowl. Using a fork, your hands, a ladle, or some other fancy device crush the fruit. This will release the juices still contained in apples and oranges.
And that’s that! Drink it up or turn it into wassail!
I know you’ll love this traditional non-alcoholic homemade apple cider recipe as much as I do!!