Apple cider or Apple juice, whichever

I’ve made enough apple sauce to last all year…in fact, if we eat a pint every two weeks, we would still have enough until next year. I was ready to pull all the apples off the tree and give them to the chickens, but thought I would try to make juice out of them first.

Before, I just had a crockpot and large roasting pan that I had made the apple sauce with. When making the apple sauce, I saw that there was a lot of juice left over when pushing it through the meat grinder after cooking, so I just thought I would let it cook all day while I was away at work and then try to squeeze it when I got home. What I got was a start to dehydrated apples in the oven and a gooey sticky mess in the crockpots. The chickens got a feast that night. I have since learned that you are supposed to cover them with water. boil or simmer, strain, put in a sack and squeeze…

Gee, you know that information… really would’ve been more useful to me *yesterday.*

You tell em, Adam Sandler.

I then started looking into steam juicers. The Finnish one is apparently the gold standard, but very expensive. After poking around in the intertubes, it didn’t look like the knock off versions were functionally different, so I ended up getting Cook N Home NC-00256 11-Quart Stainless-Steel Juicer Steamer

I started with sand hill plum juice, which was TART aka bitter. Still trying to find a good combination to use that with, without drowning in sugar – or any sweetener. I mixed like a tablespoon with about a cup of apple juice, and it gave it a nice little kick, and I have heard that ginger might take some of the bitterness out of it as well. I then tried it with some regular plums, off a neighbor’s bush, and that juice is very nice with no sugar added.

But, I wanted to try to make apple juice. I’m still a bit unclear about the difference between apple cider and juice, as the traditional method of grinding, pressing and then either filtering or not decides if it is apple cider or juice:
Apple juice and Apple cider: What’s the difference?

Apple juice and apple cider are both fruit beverages made from apples, but there is a difference between the two. Fresh cider is raw apple juice that has not undergone a filtration process to remove coarse particles of pulp or sediment. It takes about one third of a bushel to make a gallon of cider.

To make fresh cider, apples are washed, cut and ground into a mash that is the consistency of applesauce. Layers of mash are wrapped in cloth, and put into wooded racks. A hydraulic press squeezes the layers, and the juice flows into refrigerated tanks. This juice is
bottled as apple cider.

Apple juice is juice that has been filtered to remove solids and pasteurized so that it will stay fresh longer. Vacuum sealing and additional filtering extend the shelf life of the juice.

Well, that doesn’t tell me how my processing fits in. It is steamed juiced, so it comes out perfectly clear juice with no pulp, but I don’t filter it. I”m going to call it cider. Sounds more fancy than juice.

I use an apple corer to cut the apples and core them. Maybe not necessary if using store bought apples, but mine could/did have bugs/worms, so I needed to cut them open so I could get rid of the icky parts. A helpful hint: put the top of a beer bottle down on the cutting board, pointy side down. Use your corer to core the apple on the cutting board, but there is always that little bit of skin still holding everything together. Move the circle of the corer onto the beer bottle top and press down again. That puts your metal corer on top of the metal beer bottle, and you can push down that much more. It won’t slice cleanly through, but you can then turn it over and push the core out over your compost bucket, and then turn it over again to flop the apples into your waiting bowl. That little addition of the beer bottle cap made going through an entire juicer load of apples much faster…20 minutes or so? And I got to drink a beer while doing it, so win!

After the round of apple sauce I made earlier, that cleared a bunch of apples from the neglected, never pruned, fallen over tree in the front yard, and the extra energy after harvesting a few went into making much larger apples. Some turned out almost as big as store bought! The smaller ones I just quartered and cut out the cores with a knife. IMG_3390[1]

The juicer has a bottom pan for water, a middle pan that stores the juice and an upper pan with holes in it to let the juice drop into the middle pan. The water boils, comes up through the cone part of the middle pan, heats the apples, which make them release the juice. I put a jar in the cabinet below the juicer and let it drain out as it is heating. I bring it up to a very high boil, and then back off again so it is still boiling but not furiously. I let it go 1 1/2 hours or until all the juice is done coming out. That is longer than most instructions say, but I am only doing one load a day, so quiting 30 minutes earlier isn’t much of a time saver.

The first time I did it, I just used the apples from the aforementioned neglected tree. It was pretty good, but a little tart, as the green apples that it grows are definitely less sweet than others around. A friend down the street has just moved into a house and said she had some peaches I was welcome to. I went over to grab some peaches one day, and they were all gone! Too late. Bummer. But I saw the apple tree with beaucoup red apples littering the ground, so I grabbed a bucketful and came home with them…later telling her I stole some :) She responded with “come take all you want!”

Combining the green apples with her more red, sweeter apples yielded a great apple cider/juice. The steam juicer makes very heavy/syrupy juice that could be diluted and it would still taste awesome, but storing it, I don’t do that, as why store water like that?

So far, I’ve done 3 juicers full and came up with 8 quarts of juice…kind of. Another neighbor indicated she would like to buy some. I had done a juicer full of green apples, and then did another juicer full of red apples the next day. I told her that I would come by when it was ready, but she stopped by instead. I was still boiling the two types together and putting it into 1/2 gallon jars, so I rushed and put it into the jar, added a two piece lid, wrapped it up in a towel, and handed it to her to go. And…

Thermal Shock!!! dun dun duuuuuunnnnnnnn

All over the floor. Damn it. 1/2 gallon just made apple cider mixed with dog food/hair and dirty shoes. (That sounds like my kitchen is uninhabitable. No, that was the back room she was leaving by.) I was so embarrassed and mad at myself. I should have told her it wasn’t ready yet and I would bring it by later. I knew better than that. So, she left, and I did the other half gallon, and then the rest into 2 quart jars.

Apple juice is acidic enough that you don’t have to worry about botulism, but other germies could be present. I boiled the juice, washed the jars with soap and water, boiled the lids, and then filled and put the lids on. Then, moved them to a towel covered counter-top to cool naturally and not break all over my clean kitchen floor.

The first time, I pressure canned the quarts, as I don’t have a water bath canner big enough for quarts. I did 11 lbs of pressure for 10 minutes, and it turned it very dark. I did the apple juice, plum juice and sand hill plum juice all in one canner load, and the colors were very different going in (sand hill plum was dark pink, plum was light pink, and apple was beige) but they came out all looking about the same. I had to guess which was which, based on color, the smaller canning jars I had used to finish out the batch, and by…licking my finger, swiping the outside of the jar on the threads, and tasting it. To detect the overflow, you see. It worked :)

I have since found a great resource for pressure canning things traditionally canned:

The science behind canning lends itself to letting traditionally water batch canned items be safely pressure canned. The pressure canner brings the water to a higher temperature than the BWB canner, so my original thinking was to blow off the steam for 10 minutes, pressure it up to what you use for other traditionally pressure canned foods (11 lbs at my elevation of 1500 feet) and keep it there as long as the original recipe said to do the BWB canning, and it had to be safe. Turns out, yes, but it was too much pressure and for too long. Apples and apple sauce was 6 lbs pressure for 8 minutes, according to the above link. I had gone 11 lbs for 10 minutes.

Now, for the math of buying the juicer. It was about $100 for the juicer when I bought it. I looked in the store today for apple juice, and it was about $2.50 per half gallon. I sold the one 1/2 gallon for $5, so it’s down to $95 :) $95 / 2.5 = 38 one half gallons to break even. I’ve got 2 more 1/2 gallons (actually, 4 quarts) on the shelf (I’m not counting the one that broke), so 36 left. I’ve got one apple tree in the front yard, another 2 year old tree in the front yard that isn’t yielding yet, another 1 year old tree in the front yard that is probably dead and I need to get my money back from the seller, trees in 3 different neighbor’s yards that I have permission to pick, etc. If I didn’t have the tools to process these, these apples and other fruits (plums, sand hill plums, pears, etc) would be going to waste. I have no doubt that in a few years I will make the juicer pay for itself.

The juicer looks like it could be transformed into a still with a little work, as a facebook friend helpfully pointed out. I don’t think I will be attempting that, but here are some hard apple cider references I might try in the future:
How To Make Hard Cider
How To Make Applejack

2 thoughts on “Apple cider or Apple juice, whichever

  1. Karen.

    So really, this amounted to a few good things. A clean floor, for one. ;) Juice for sale. And a heck of a website, the canning resource.

    What’s your jar situation? Do you actually can in 1/2 gallons or is that two 1-quart jars?

    1. Chrissy Post author

      I don’t actually can in 1/2 gallon jars, but this lady lives a block away and she said she was going to drink it immediately, so I didn’t need to worry about sealing it for long term storage. I told her I wanted my jar back, because I only had 2 of the 1/2 gallon ones, and then we go and break one. :/

      For my personal storage, I use quart jars. I could either convert the price comparison to $1.25 per quart or $2.50 per half gallon. 36 half gallons sounds more doable than 72 quarts, though!


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