Fresh apple juice, or apple cider, can be made any time of year when apples are available, but is most commonly squeezed in the autumn when apples are plentiful. Cider and juice are made in the same way, with the only difference that apple juice is usually pressed and strained through a thinner mesh than cider. Depending on the content of the apples, which varies from year to year, the taste, sweetness and consistency of apple juice and cider can vary widely.
Things You'll Need
- Apples (20 lb. make 1 gallon juice)
- Lemon juice (optional)
- Apple crusher
- Apple press
- Mesh bag
- Large pot
- Paper coffee filters, cheesecloth or jelly strainer (optional)
- Empty, clean plastic jugs
Procure a mix of apple varieties. Apple juice tastes much better if sweet, tart and fragrant apples are mixed together. Yields can vary widely, but as a general guide, 20 lb. apples will yield a gallon of juice.
Wash the apples by running cold water over them and removing any dirt or other contaminants. Remove any obviously rotted or discolored parts of the apple. Be cautious when using "ground apples", or apples that have been picked up from the ground after falling from the tree as these will require extra cleaning to remove possible contaminants. Never use "ground apples" from an area where livestock graze. Check with your local health department for recommendations on cleaning "ground apples" in your area.
Chop and mash the apples. For larger quantities, an apple chopper is the easiest method. For smaller quantities, you may use a food processor, meat grinder, or just cut the apples into very small cubes. Do not worry about stems, seeds or peels--they can all be included in the mash.
Insert a mesh bag into the fruit press. Bags with larger diameters are used for cider, while a smaller mesh will product a more juice-like product. Place a large pot under the spout of the fruit press to catch the juice as it is pressed.
Fill the fruit press with apple mash. Add 1 tbsp. lemon juice, if desired, to help reduce oxidation of the apple juice. Apples and apple juice, will react with oxygen and produce a brownish color. Lemon juice will lessen but will not eliminate this effect.
Tighten the fruit press to begin the flow of juice. Keep tightening the press until the flow of juice comes to a halt, which takes approximately 10 minutes. The pressed mash can be composted, discarded or fed to local wildlife.
If desired, apple juice can now be heated to remove any bacteria or pathogens. Your local health department can specify the exact time and temperature appropriate to your area. This is typically not done for cider as heat treating will affect the taste.
If desired, the apple juice can now be filtered through a paper filter, cheese cloth or jelly bag to remove the pulp and solids which slipped through the mesh bag at pressing. This is typically not done for cider. It can take many hours per gallon to perform this operation.
Pour the apple juice into plastic or glass containers. If you plan to freeze the juice, fill the containers three-fourths full, to allow room for expansion.
If the apple juice has not been heated, it will keep in a refrigerator for one or two weeks before yeast naturally present in the juice starts the fermentation process.