Lucky for you, this month--thanks to Jennifer at Peanut Butter and Peppers--I now have a cheater way to make a cider that is really delicious. No press required, thank you very much. I thought it tasted so much better than cider from a store. And just like cider makers of bygone eras, you can try different spices until you get it just how you like it.
You know what else I love about apple cider? It's a cheapskate thing at heart. Originally, it was a way to use the fallen, bruised apples--the ones the couldn't be sold for their beauty and grace. Those ones got made into sauces and ciders. That's right up my ally. Even for those of us without apple orchards, this is pretty cheap if you make it in season. My generous gallon ran me under $4.00. At the store, it's usually at least that much.
You know what else is right up my ally? Laziness. Is there any peeling or deseeding in this recipes? Nope nope and nope. You cut things into a couple big chunks and throw them into the pot. Love it. Then at the end you strain/press them out and you've got your cider.
You know what else is right up my ally. Drinking hot cider on cold, cozy nights. Even though it has some added sugar, I still feel better about it than a cup of hot chocolate or eggnog. I mean, it's not gazpacho or anything, but as far as hot festive drinks go, it's pretty virtuous.
Jennifer made this on the stove top. It takes about 3 hours (mostly in simmering time, not in active cooking time). I thought it'd be interesting to give it a try in the crock. It was delicious and super easy. I loved that I could put it in at night and have hot cider in the morning (who needs coffee--blech). And it sure smelled good.
Crock Pot Apple Cider
adapted from Peanut Butter and Peppers
makes approximately 1 gallon
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 8-12 hours in crock; 3 hours in pot
Squeeze/strain time: 10 minutes
(apples: 2.00, orange: .50, sugar: .35, spices--these are much pricier since they're whole, but I'm guessing on cost here--.50)
Note: If you don't have all these spices whole, you can make a little packet of spices. Use some coffee filters or a bit of linen cloth and wrap your ground spices into it. Then tie it with a twist tie and put it in your pot. I did this with nutmeg and a bit of cinnamon (I only had 2 whole cinnamon sticks on hand). You might have to guess the measurements a bit (I did), but I used 1/4 tsp nutmeg and 1/2 tsp cinnamon and all was well with the world.
12 small or medium apples (Jennifer recommended assorted types, but I only had honey crisp since my kids ate all my golden delicious)
1/2-1 C brown sugar (I actually used 1 1/4 C and did about 1/2 C of that granulated sugar)
4 cinnamon sticks
1 whole nutmeg
1 Tbsp whole cloves
1 tsp whole allspice
water to cover
Cut the apples and orange into quarters (or halves if you're extra lazy). Throw them in the crock pot (no peeling, no coring). Add the spices and 1/2 C sugar (you can add more later if you'd like). Cover it with water. (This filled to the brim my 4-6 quart crock pot--that's right; I'm not sure which size it is.) Put the lid on and set it to low. I left mine overnight (probably for about 14 hours total, though it would have been ready before then). If you wanted it quicker, you could set it to high.
When everything is mushy and fragrant, mash the fruit up. It'll look a little apple-saucy. Then pour it through a cheesecloth or tea towel into a large container. Squeeze out all the deliciousness (though you may have to let it cool a bit before you do this). Taste it for sugar and add more if you need to, and stir until dissolved.
Serve warm or cold. I love it warm (love love love), but most of my family prefers their cider cold (weidos).