{DIY Apple Cider} from Tree to Tummy

The buds on an apple tree earlier this year

Our old farm has a fun history. From the reseach I’ve been conducting on the property, here’s what I’ve found: The original farm was started by the Gaige family pre-Revolutionary War (the Gaige family can be traced to our area since the 1730s). The house across the street was built in the early 1800s by Isaac Gaige and our house was added to the property in 1886. The farm grew apples, and the owners tranported their apples on pallets by rail (the train runs just behind our property) to New York City for sale. The Gaige family has left us lots of great mementos from their time here (creepily, this includes headstones on the side of our house… pretty sure we have dead bodies in our yard), but by far, my favorites are the apple trees.

We have about 35 apple trees (plus another half-dozen seckle pear trees) on our farm that range from Ben Davis to McIntosh to Cortland to Golden Delicious. Many of the trees are well over 100 years old. The McNitt family (Howard and Esther bought the house in 1932 and raised their two sons here. They remained in the house until the early 2000s) took wonderful care of the orchard, but Hurricane Irene knocked out many of the trees this year. The trees that remain have beared unbelievable fruit, though. Besides the pints upon pints of apple sauce, apple butter, apple jelly, and apple relish I make each year, we also make cider! We use my family’s 100+ year old cider press and grinders to make some of the tastiest cider I’ve ever sipped (if I do say so myself).

Edith watches as we prep the cider press
Eric tests the apples to make sure they are "cider ready"
A wagon full of apples waiting to be washed
My dad and Eric prepping the grinder
Apples prepped to go in grinder
Here I am! Pressing cider
Mixing, filtering and bottling
Fresh, delicious apple cider

You don’t need a bunch of big fancy equipment to make cider, though! Here are some easy at-home methods for making your own cider.


1. Gather apples. A good rule of thumb is one bushel of apples makes one gallon of cider. A mix of apples will make the best cider (we combine apples from all different tree varieties to get the best flavor).

2. Cut-up apples. The smaller apples are cut, the more easily they can be juiced. Our grinder cuts the apples into 1″ by .5″ pieces. Cores, stems and seeds can all be pressed into cider.

3. Prep and press. We put our apple “mash” in old organic cotton pillow cases to press and filter. You can use a similar system, or try an old dishtowel or flour sack (just don’t overfill! You’ll pop the seams). Use a heavy weight (like a cider block or free weights) to press the cider from the mash. Press in a colander inside a same-sized or larger bowl.

4. Filter and mix. If you do more than one batch of pressing, you’ll want to mix your batches of cider for the best flavor and consistency. Filter through a large cotton filter (or slowly through a coffee filter). Store in a food safe container (like a used juice container or mason jars). Keep refrigerated. Cider also keeps well in the freezer, just be sure to leave room in your container for expansion.

Now that you have your cider, how about some tasty ways to drink it? First up, a tasty spin on a margarita I call The Chapman (as in the guy who was known in folklore as Johnny Appleseed. I’ve seen a similar recipe elsewhere called an Adirondack Margarita):

The Chapman

The Chapman
Makes one cocktail

1/2 cup Apple Cider

1 jigger (3 tbsp) Tequila

1/2 jigger Orange Juice

1/2 jigger Triple Sec

Squeeze of Lime

Demerara Sugar

In a Boston shaker combine all ingredients but the sugar. Shake to combine. Dip the rim of a martini glass in water (or in leftover apple cider), then roll the edge in the sugar. Fill with cocktail mixture. If desired, garnish with an apple slice.

And next, a classic Mulled Cider recipe:

Classic Mulled Cider

Mulled Cider
Serves six

1/2 gallon Apple Cider

2 Cinnamon Sticks

1 Orange, sliced

2 Allspice Berries

2 Whole Cloves

2 Cardamom Pods

Make a spice bag of cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and cardamom with cheesecloth and kitchen twine (just place the spices in the center of a cheesecloth square, then tied tightly with twine). In a large pot or in a Crockpot, combine cider, orange slices and spice bag. Cook until warmed and steaming for 10-15 minutes (keep warm in the Crockpot). Pour into individual mugs and garnish with orange slice and cinnamon stick.

I’ll be experimenting this year with hard cider, so stay tuned for updates on my results!


22 Comments Add yours

  1. Becky says:

    Deanna, love the idea of pressing my own cider at home! thanks for the tips. AND I love your drink recipes. I cant wait to try The Chapman ASAP!!!!

  2. jillian says:

    Wow Deanna I love it! The whole story is wonderful. I love that you have all those apples. And I love that you have a press. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Deanna says:

    Thanks ladies! I’ll be doing a demo of DIY cider at the Harvest Festival this weekend, I’m so excited! It’s a messy process and takes a little muscle, but it’s totally worth it. Everything tastes better is we make it ourselves, right?! Because this cider is unpasteurized, it remains a bit cloudy. If you must have clear cider, you can add a little pectic enzyme available at any homebrew store.

    @Becky – if you like your Chapman to be a little sweeter, you can add a splash of simple syrup (1:1 ratio of water to sugar, cook until sugar dissolves).

    Thanks for reading, ladies!

  4. Looks delicious. And nice form while working the apple pressing thing-y.

  5. Deanna says:

    Thank Amy. It’s how I got my guns.

  6. EvanLac says:

    Well I’m sorry Lauren and I were late to the party and that we didn’t lend a helping a hand. I am however, not sorry that we showed up and I got to reap the rewards of your hard work!

    That cider is, in fact, the best ever. Lauren and I used it in an applejack hot toddy the other day, though the recipe needs some tweaking to tone down the intensity.

    Thank you so much for showing us around your lovely farm, and for sharing your cider!

  7. Deanna says:

    @EvanLac – My pleasure! I think the combination of apples and the fact that there is NOTHING in the cider but sunshine, water, apples and love is what makes it great. I’m really glad you liked it (I’m sure more will find it’s way to you!). I was thinking of taking some of the still hard cider I started (when it’s ready) and trying to make a Hot Toddy with it. Braden makes GOOD hot toddies… maybe we should gang-up on him and force him to make some for us 🙂 Thanks so much for reading, bud!

  8. Angela Watts says:

    DIY Cider is indeed the best, tastes like I remember as a kid. Not this ultra-pasteurized junk they tell you to drink these days. Even organic cider tastes diluted when its been pasteurized.

  9. Kate says:

    I can’t wait to try a Chapman. My favorite fall drink is called a Chimayo Cocktail named after a great restaurant in Chimayo, New Mexico called Rancho de Chimayo (in my house known as Rancho Relaxo after a few of these).

    Chimayo Cocktail:
    1 1/2 oz gold tequila
    1 1/2 oz apple cider
    1/4 oz lemon or lime juice
    1/4 oz creme de cassis
    wedge of apple for garnish.

    Mix and serve over Ice

  10. Marit Saltrones says:

    After pressing apples from 4 families last Sunday, we ended up with about 32 gallons (!!) of cider. I have two gallons in my fridge which I plan to cook down into apple molasses tomorrow – a sweetener from my own apples. Oh, it is sooooo goooood!

  11. Deanna says:

    @Marit – So cool! Let me know how the molasses turns out for you.

  12. b. Goz says:

    Hi Deanna,
    I googled Isaac Gaige & your site came up. I am doing the Gaige genealogy & am wondering if you would be kind enough to tell me, if they are readable, the names on the headstones (you stated that they are on the side of your house). Is Isaac’s house still standing? Wow, this is so cool.
    B. Goz

  13. Leonardo says:

    Hi, every time i used to check weblog posts here in the early
    hours in the break of day, since i enjoy to find out more
    and more.

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