I love the fall. It's my favorite season by far. It's the time of boyfriend (or I guess husband) hoodies, college football, and cider mills. In Texas, the changing of the season means almost nothing. The temperatures dipped into a 60s last, which was a huge respite from the heat, but the extended forecast shows highs in the upper 80s to 90s, meaning that the only place to wear a hoodie is in my over-air conditioned office. The excessive heat means that apples are ill-suited to grow and the closest cider mill is in Lubbock, TX, a mere seven hours by car. Considering what it would cost in gas, I decided that it would be a lot cheaper to just make my own cider.
The term "cider" isn't strictly regulated by the USDA, but generally apple cider is the raw, unfiltered juice from apples, whereas apple juice is the cooked, strained juice. It turns out that cider tastes like apples and apple juice tastes like an apple-y byproduct. Since it's not actually regulated, some unscrupulous companies change the name of their product to "apple cider" when the fall season hits, but that doesn't even come close to the greatness that a fresh apple cider can bring.
The only ingredient you need for cider is apples. I used a random mix, based on the cheapest ones I could find at Whole Foods, but in general, the idea is to balance tart and sweet to get a pan-apple flavor that has a wonderful tangy finish.
homemade apple cider
fine mesh strainer
wash all the apples and pat dry. remove the core with the corer, but be sure to leave the skins on.
place apples in the food processor and turn it on until it looks like apple sauce. call this a "mash"
Now is the point where most recipes will tell you to put the mash through a cider press. That would be super awesome to have if they weren't 250 bucks for the basic model. I experimented with a few ways of doing it and the best solution I had was to run it through a fine mesh strainer. I used my chinois and pestle to force the juices out, but it really doesn't get *all* the juice out. For the 11ish lbs of apples that I used I probably could have gotten ~3/4 of a gallon or so of cider, but I only ended up with 2 quarts.
There are other options besides the strainer and they have their pros and cons. I've never used one, but I'm guessing that a food mill lined with cheesecloth would work okay. I also experimented with lining a potato ricer with cheesecloth, which works really well, but you can only do small batches. It gets the juice out better than the strainer+pestle, but it definitely will take a whole lot longer (and you'll spend a fortune on the cheesecloth!).
So now, what does one do with the juiced mash? Compost it!