Before going into how to make apple cider, it may help first to understand what the difference is between apple cider and apple juice. Essentially it boils down to filtration. Apple juice is filtered to get out the solids and apple cider is not. Apple cider, therefore, is really nothing more than unfiltered apple juice. Apple juice is also pasteurized and vacuum packed—giving the juice a clearer appearance and a longer shelf-life—and apple cider isn't.
One other note on the difference before proceeding: this is what apple cider means in the United States. Everywhere else, apple cider is what Americans would call "hard cider" or cider that's been fermented to create alcohol.
Selecting the Apples
The best apple ciders usually come from the varieties of red apples that are harvested in fall and winter. Green apples and apples grown in summer don't have enough sugars to make a good cider. There are some, in fact, who distinguish apple cider from apple juice by the kinds of apples used or the time of harvesting.
Some commercial apple cider makers even cite the differences as being the apples for cider are picked early, prematurely even, giving them a higher-acidity and a lower sweetness than those picked later for juice.
Making the Cider - Simmer/Mash Method
This video shows a method that takes a little longer, but helps you get more juice out of your apples.
Making the Cider – Fastest Method
After picking and gathering (or buying and bringing home) the apples, wash them thoroughly. Remove and discard the cores. Then crush the apples into a pulp using any tools you have at your disposal. A clean meat tenderizer works well, as does a sturdy pint glass or rolling pin. It helps to cut the apples into small pieces first for easier mashing. Do not use a food processor as you don't want to puree the juice and solids together but rather separate them out as best as you can.
After crushing the apples, strain the juice off from the pulp. Voila, you now have apple cider. Simple, wasn't it? Well, it takes some time but is worth the effort. It's also worth noting that you'll need about 20 pounds of apples to make one gallon of cider.
The straining process is where a cider press comes into play for many makers, but you don't need one to make apple cider. You can strain off the juice from the pulp just as well (or nearly as well, at least) using a tight-weave colander or cheese cloth. As I mentioned, it's basically the lack of complete filtration of the apple solids that differentiates apple cider from apple juice, so you don't have to be perfect here.
Serving & Storage
Because apple cider is not pasteurized or filtered, it does not have a long shelf life. Therefore it should either be drank right away or sealed tightly in a bottle and stored in the refrigerator. But even refrigerated, the cider will start to ferment over time, albeit slower, changing over into hard cider first and eventually turning to apple cider vinegar.
Making apple cider, as it turns out, is actually easier than making apple juice. Many people prefer cider’s richer taste. How about you?