Apples: Rounds 2 and 3

After picking a 5 gallon pail of apples, it was time to take care of them so they wouldn’t go to waste, which brings us to rounds 2 and 3 of apples!  (If you didn’t read about round 1, check out the link here.) Okay, so it may technically be more like rounds 3 and 4 because I already told you about the dehydrated apples, but I’m going to do more on those in another post, so they’ll get yet another round.IMG_1350

I actually made 3 things with the apples this time, however, one of the things I made was applesauce so…I think it doesn’t count.  But get this, I made 5+ quarts of applesauce from this round in addition to nearly 2 gallons of apple cider and a half a tray of apple fruit leather.  That’s a few weeks worth of apple products for our house that I won’t have to buy, so I’m a pretty happy camper!

There is more than one way to make apple cider, but I’ll share how I make stove-top cider, and use what is left to make applesauce and fruit leather.  Be warned though, this is a project that takes a lot of time.  I would also recommend reading this all of the way through before you begin so you have an idea of what steps are coming ahead while you are working.  Be prepared to set aside a few hours for this.  I’m getting detailed here, because I know not all of you will have done this before.  I’ll share a few notes towards the end about adjustments you can make and what you can do if you don’t have all of the tools.

First you are going to want to get your supplies together (check the notes near the bottom if you don’t have all of these items):

  • cutting board
  • sharp knife
  • large pot for boiling
  • wooden spoon (or other mixing utinsel)
  • hot pads (oven mitts)
  • potato masher
  • strainer (one with “claws” so it can rest on the edge of a pot)
  • bowl/pot for straining liquid into
  • ladle or measuring cup (for scooping pulp)
  • food mill
  • container for grinding the apple pulp into applesauce
  • container for the “scraps”
  • liquid funnel
  • vessel for storing cider in (should be freezer-safe if you plan to freeze it)
  • canning funnel, lids, (basic canning supplies)
  • jars for canning the apple sauce
  • dehydrator (or oven) for making fruit leather
  •  parchment paper

Ingredients: apples, water, and *mulling spice or *cinnamon  (*optional)

I know that might seem like a lot of supplies, but remember, you are making 3 products with this batch of apples.  If you are making a lot of cider like I did, you will probably need to be able to freeze it if you do not plan to drink it all right away, so make sure you have appropriate freezer space.  (Sorry there aren’t more pictures, I was doing this while the kids were at their grandparents and Scott was at work…next time I do this, I might be able to update this with a few more pics.)

Cut the apples into quarters (if your apples are not from a sprayed tree, you will want to be on the lookout for any bugs you’d need to cut out), and place into a large pot (whatever will hold most/all of your apples, if you don’t have a big pot, you might have to do multiple batches if you have a lot of apples).

Quartered apples.  Filling the pot with enough water to just cover the apples.  You can add more water for cider that isn’t quite so thick if that’s what you prefer.

Fill the pot with water, enough to just cover the apples, you will probably need to hold the apples down gently with one hand as you fill your pot because they will float and it is hard to judge how much water is actually in the pot.  Now is when you add the mulling spice if you want to have it seasoned.  Cook on the stove for about an hour.  You can just walk away, but it’s best to occasionally stir the pot so that all of the apples get cooked thoroughly.  They should be falling apart by the time you are finished.  Turn off the stove, mash and stir, stir and mash…

Remove the pot from the stove and place onto hot pads on a table that has been cleared off.  You will want a large work area, because there are different “stations” for the next steps.  You should have all of the supplies listed above (aside from the dehydrator…unless it’s a smaller electric unit) on your table top.  Rest the strainer on the edge of the second pot (or a large bowl), and rest the food mill on the edge of the third container, and have a container handy for scraps.

My cider and sauce set-up.  Smaller black pot (10 qt.) with strainer,  three 1-gallon jugs+ funnel (I only used two), canning pot with 5 gallons of cooked and slightly mashed apples (on pot holders so I don’t burn the table), ice cream pail for apple scraps, 4 cup liquid measure for scooping apples into strainer, glass measuring bowl with food mill for grinding (I ended up grabbing another pot to fill these with), and a ladle for pushing extra water out of the strainer and also for emptying the strainer.  The little pink circles are the lids for the jugs.

Start by scooping the apples and water into the strainer (this is the slow part) and let the liquid drain out.  When the liquid stops draining, you can gently press down on the pulp to push out more water (if you push too hard, you will have pulp in your cider which is okay, but a personal preference), then empty the strainer into the food mill.   You might want to occasionally mash the apples as your cooking pot begins to empty because there might be larger chunks that were missed…mashing allows you to more easily strain the water, and it makes it easier to puree the pulp into applesauce.

Straining the apples. (Everything is hot during this process, so be careful!)  I probably should have mashed these apples a little better, but the pot was so full, it was kind of difficult until the pot started to get emptier.

Grid the apple pulp in the food mill until all you have left is apple peels and seeds.  When the pulp is all pushed out, spin the mill in reverse to help scrape the peels and seeds out, and then dump the excess into your scrap bin.  Continue this process until you have strained and pureed all of the liquid and apples from the original pot.  You might need to stop and fill your vessel for the cider if your pot gets too full, and you may need to empty your applesauce as well, just use your judgement.  The strainer won’t be able to strain more liquid if the liquid in the pot is touching the bottom of the strainer, and same for the food mill. (For more pictures go to Apples:Round 1)

You have one of two choices once you have strained everything and run it through the food mill.  1) You can can your applesauce as is, or 2) you can strain the applesauce a second time, this time in a clean cloth such as a flour sack towel.  The second straining will make the sauce less runny, and if you plan to make fruit leather, it helps cut down on drying time because there is less water to remove during the dehydrating process.  I strained mine a second time, and it is kind of tedious and yes, your hands will get messy.

To strain, set your towel in a colander or the strainer, scoop in the applesauce, bring the corners of the towel together and start twisting to make a ball.  I use a rubber spatula to scrape the ball off as I tighten because the liquid is sort of sticky (it’s thick cider).  After you have squeezed out the liquid, put the sauce back into the pot and heat it back up if you are going to be canning it (but don’t heat it until you are just about ready to do the whole canning process).  Set aside as much squeezed sauce as you want for making fruit leather.  Now you can fill your jars with the remainder of the applesauce and finish the canning process like I shared in Apples: Round 1.

After the second round of straining, you can empty all of the cider into your containers you have for storing your cider.  You can use an old jug from something like juice, but it should be very clean!  You don’t want to contaminate your cider.  Put it in the dishwasher, or fill it with hot water and a dab of dish soap, shake and rinse really well (you don’t want suds either).  You could also rinse with some hot boiled water, but be careful not to burn yourself…go slow and use a funnel.  Another option would be to buy some oxygen wash to clean your supplies.  You aren’t canning this, just freezing or refrigerating, but you also don’t want all of your hard work to go to waste.  If you are using used containers, make sure they are CLEAN!  (Of course, you could use a new container as well.)  I used some jugs from Arizona tea that we had saved over the course of the last year and cleaned really well.  Put your funnel in the top of the container and slowly pour in the cider.  If you are going to be freezing, make sure you leave 10% head space for expansion or you will have cider leak all over your freezer.

Filling the cider jugs. I used old tea jugs that were cleaned out…I filled the first jug with a little more cider, and the second one was equally full, but there wasn’t enough to fill a third.  So a 5-gal. pail of apples made about 2 gallons of cider.

Once your cider is closed up, cap in place, you can let it cool on the counter until it is no longer warm to the touch.  If you put the cider in the freezer or fridge while it is still warm, your appliances will have to work much harder to keep everything in them cool and to cool the cider down.  Not great for your appliances or your electric bill! (This holds true for putting anything hot in a fridge or freezer.)

After you have your cider taken care of and your applesauce underway, you can focus on the fruit leather (you can do this while you are canning the applesauce).  Grab your tray (or trays) for your dehydrator, and cut a piece of parchment paper to fit.  Spread the applesauce out in a fairly thin, even layer (it won’t be perfect, so don’t even try!), and place the tray in your dehydrator.  You will know when it is done because it will no longer be wet (the longer you dry it, the less sticky it becomes), and it will darken by several shades.

You can store the fruit leather in whatever suits your needs the best.  Some people will cut the leather, parchment and all, into strips and tie it up with bakers twine to make homemade fruit roll-ups and others will cut or rip it into strips and store in a container in chunks.  If it’s really hot and humid, you can put it in the refrigerator (it will get a little bit sticky), or store it in a cabinet or on the counter.  Just keep an eye on it as it can get moldy after awhile…I’d say try to eat it within a week, but it’s just going to depend on the conditions it is stored in.  This time I am just putting the strips into a little baggie, but I want to make a larger batch next time and try vacuum sealing it to see how long it will last.  I might play around with variations on it as well with the next batch, but the kids and I like the plain, unsweetened version plenty.

Notes:  You can add more water to the apples while cooking to get more cider, but it will not taste as strong or be as thick.  If you are using apples that are kind of tart and you want to reduce the kick, you can add sugar (possibly honey?  I haven’t tried that one yet).  The variety of apples you use along with their ripeness will affect how the cider ( applesauce and fruit leather) taste, so pick apples with a flavor you like.  And don’t be afraid to use a few varieties of apples.

If you do not own a food mill, do not despair!  If you peel and core your apples first, you can run the apple mush through a blender after straining, or simply continue to mash with a potato masher.  I don’t do this because you get the most nutrients out of the apples by cooking the whole thing, but it’s still a healthy food to eat if you have to get rid of the peels and cores first.  If you do not own a strainer, you can line a colander with a large piece of cotton or a towel (this is messier, but it works).

If you have chickens, you can feed them the scraps, or if you add nothing to the apples, you can put the scraps in a compost bin, bury them in your garden between rows, or just toss if those aren’t options for you.  There is very little waste by making both cider and applesauce in the same batch.  From 5 gallons of apples, I ended up with less than half a gallon of scraps after cutting out bugs, and separating the peels and seeds out after grinding.

The apple peels and cores hold a lot of nutrients which is why I cook the entire apple.  If, like I said, you don’t have a food mill, you’ll want to peel and core the apples before hand so you do not end up with seeds and peel in your applesauce.  If you end up doing that, you can use your apple scraps to make your own apple cider vinegar.  I did it a few years ago, but haven’t since…I will have to look up my recipe again this year and share it with you when I try it again.

The **mulling spice is optional.  You could also throw in cinnamon sticks or just ground cinnamon to add a little spice.

** To make your own mulling spice you will need: 

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. dried ground orange peel
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 8″x8″ square of cotton fabric
  • bakers twine (or other string) for tying the sachet shut

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl, scoop onto cotton square, and tie into a little sachet.  You can place the whole bag into the pot of apples.  If you rinse it out really well, you can reuse the bag at least one more time, but let it hang to dry, and don’t save it for the following year…only if you plan to use it again soon!

IF YOU WANT TO ADD SPICES: Do NOT add a lot of ground cinnamon or other spice directly to your cooking pot.  A little sprinkling is okay, but if you do more than about a Tbsp. for a 10qt. pot, your cider will be chalky and not enjoyable to drink.  It is okay to add some, but if you are going with ground spices, it is best to either infuse with some sort of bag of ground spices, or to add the seasoning to each cup individually to taste, or to the end product of the applesauce.  One time I just dumped the spices in because I forgot to put them into a piece of cloth, and the cider was not drinkable 🙁  But the applesauce I got out of it was perfect for using in a recipe for muffins.

So I know it sounds like a lot of work, and I won’t lie, it is.  BUT if you are trying to be self-sufficient, save some money (or just lack money), or use up the harvest, let me just reassure you that it’s worth it.  The hot apple cider you get to try at the end is delicious, and so is a warm bowl of applesauce!

If you think I missed anything, or if you have questions, please, leave your comments below.  If you try this, let me know how it works out for you.  I am wondering if anybody knows if it is possible to can apple cider???  I know you can can apple juice, but I am not sure about the cider.




One Comment

  • Hot Mess Homesteader

    Awesome ideas and harvest, I am looking at added some more trees to our homestead- but we luckily discovered we have a pear tree. Now trying to learn about pruning- since no one lived here before us for about 2 years- looking forward to following your journey!

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