Whoever said I love you a bushel and a peck must have been specifically thinking of homemade Apple Cider. Fresh apples, water, spices, and a touch of sweetener are all you need to make the best-ever version of this fall classic right on your stove.
If you’re wondering if apple cider is worth it to make from scratch, the answer is YES.
I had never tried making apple cider myself prior to this year (after all, isn’t that what the jugs are for??), and I was delighted.
Not only is apple cider easy to make from scratch (truly!), but its fresh, pure taste is one to savor.
Sure, I expected homemade cider to taste better than the grocery store stuff (just like homemade Slow Cooker Apple Butter and Crockpot Applesauce), but WOW.
This homemade cider exceeded my expectation, both in the intensity of its apple flavor, and the fact that it was not overly sweet.
- Store-bought apple cider is usually full of added sugars.
- The heating processes it goes through can suppress the flavor of the apples.
- When you make homemade apple cider, you don’t lose a speck of its appley-ness.
- Making cider yourself means you control the sweetness. You can use a natural sweetener (like pure maple syrup) and only add as much as you need.
You’ll love the scent of your kitchen while it simmers too—Bath and Body Works, please bottle this up for me.
How to Make Homemade Apple Cider
This from-scratch cider cooks largely hands-free, and you can serve it warm or cold.
- Early in the fall when it’s still warm, I love serving this homemade apple cider cold from the refrigerator with a splash of ginger ale. It’s spot-on for the season but still refreshing (as is this Apple Cider Cocktail).
- Later this season, I’m looking forward to sipping hot mugs of it…both with and without a warming splash of bourbon or rum.
The below recipe is for a non-alcoholic apple cider.
If you’d like to make an apple cider drink, simply stir in two tablespoons of your base liquor of choice (whiskey, rum, bourbon, and brandy will all pair well).
Or, use it to top off a glass of bubbly for an Apple Cider Mimosa (the perfect drink for Thanksgiving and Christmas).
- Apple. The star of the show! Thanks to their juiciness and sweetness, apples provide both liquid and flavor for the cider. Apples also have numerous health benefits, like oodles of fiber and vitamins. Feel free to use a variety of apples you enjoy. The sweeter the apples, the less sweetener you will need to add later.
- Oranges. Oranges add a sweet, citrus flavor that acts as a perfect complement to the apples and spices.
- Cinnamon Sticks. Impart the delicious, warm, and cozy flavor of cinnamon into your delicious homemade apple cider recipe.
- Cloves. Lightly sweet and warm, cloves are the perfect pairing with cinnamon.
- Optional Spices. For an extra layer of spice, you can add some nutmeg, star anise, allspice berries, and/or whole black peppercorns to your cider.
- Maple Syrup. Naturally sweetens the cider with a rich, caramel-like flavor. Add as much or as little as you like.
- Vanilla. Elevates all the flavors and wraps them in a big cozy hug.
- Add the apples to a pot. Cut both oranges, then peel one of them. Place the oranges and spices in the pot. Pour in the water.
- Bring the mixture to a rapid simmer, then reduce the heat to low. Let simmer for 2 hours.
- Remove the unpeeled orange slices. Mash the remaining ingredients. Simmer for 1 hour more.
- Strain the hot cider. Return the cider to the clean pot, then stir in the syrup (or sugar) and vanilla. ENJOY!
- To Store. Refrigerate cider in an airtight storage container (a glass carafe or jar works well) or covered pitcher for up to 1 week.
- To Reheat. Very gently rewarm the cider in a pot on the stovetop over low heat or in the microwave.
- To Freeze. Freeze leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe bottle or jar for up to 3 months. Place the frozen cider container in a bowl (to catch any runoff), then let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.
Meal Prep Tip
To easily use your leftover cider in the future, freeze it in large ice cube trays. You can use the frozen cubes for smoothies or slushies. Or, you can thaw the cubes first and enjoy them as is, mixed into a cocktail (hello, Hot Buttered Bourbon), or in recipes like Apple Cider Caramel Sauce or Apple Cider Chicken.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Large Stockpot. This large stockpot is ideal for making homemade cider.
- Strainer. A mesh strainer like this one is ideal for straining the cider.
- Carafe. This beautiful carafe is ideal for storing your cider in the refrigerator.
Stainless Steel Stockpot
This extra-large stockpot is heavy-duty and high-quality. It comes with a lid and ladle too.
What’s on your apple agenda this year?
I think it would taste even better with a glass of apple cider, don’t you?!
Frequently Asked Questions
This recipe is ideal for a party, game day gathering, or holiday. I like to serve my drinks in a punch bowl, so it’s easy for guests to serve themselves. If you’d like to serve hot apple cider, you can serve it in a slow cooker (set to WARM) with a ladle.
While I haven’t tried making pumpkin apple cider myself, I think it would be delicious! Experiment with adding 1 cup pumpkin puree to the stockpot with the fruit and spices. Add a dash of pumpkin pie spice for an extra festive touch.
- 10 to 12 medium apples cut into quarters (no need to peel or core), use a mix of varieties — Fuji, Gala, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, McIntosh, Jonathan, etc.
- 2 large oranges
- 4 to 5 cinnamon sticks 2- to 3-inches each
- 1 tablespoon whole cloves or 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- Optional spices: 1 whole nutmeg, 1 star anise, 1 teaspoon allspice berries, and/or 4 whole black peppercorns
- 1 gallon (16 cups) water filtered if possible
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup or packed dark brown sugar, plus additional to taste
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Apple slices and cinnamon sticks for serving
- Bourbon or rum optional for serving; use 2 tablespoons per drink
- In a very large stockpot, place the apples. Quarter the oranges, then remove the peels from one orange (leave the peels on the second orange). Add to the pot with the cinnamon sticks, cloves, and any optional spices. Cover with the water—you'll need at least 1 1/2 inches of open space at the top of the pot for the cider to simmer; add less of the water if your pot isn't quite large enough to hold it all and maintain that space.
- Bring the water to a rapid simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 2 hours, until the apples and oranges are completely soft.
- Remove the orange sections with the peels still on (leave the second, peeled orange in). With a potato masher, mash the fruit against the bottom of the pot to break it down and release more flavor (if you don't have a masher, use a wooden spoon and press the fruit on the side of the pot). Continue simmering, uncovered, for 1 hour more. Your kitchen will smell amazing.
- Strain the cider through a fine mesh strainer or a cheesecloth. Press the solids into the sieve to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. (I find it easiest to place a strainer on top of a large bowl, then ladle the cider into the strainer and press the solids in batches). Discard the solids.
- If desired, return the strained cider to the pot (remove any remaining solids from the pot first). Add the maple syrup or brown sugar and the vanilla, stirring to combine and heating the cider gently if desired. Taste and adjust the sweetness as desired, adding 1 tablespoon of sweetener at a time (the amount you need will vary based on personal taste and the tartness of the apples). Enjoy warm or chilled (with or without bourbon), garnished with apple slices and cinnamon sticks.
- FOR SLOW COOKER APPLE CIDER: Add the apples, oranges, spices, and water as directed to a slow cooker. Cook on LOW for for 6 to 8 hours or on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours. Roughly an hour before the cider is done, remove the unpeeled oranges and mash the remaining fruit in the slow cooker. Strain the cider into a clean pitcher or bowl, then stir in the syrup and vanilla.
- FOR INSTANT POT APPLE CIDER: Add the apples, oranges, spices, and water (make sure it’s enough to cover the ingredients) to an Instant Pot and stir. Cover and cook on HIGH for 15 minutes, then let the pressure release naturally. Remove the unpeeled oranges, and mash the remaining fruit. Strain the cider into a clean pitcher or bowl. Stir in the syrup and vanilla.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate cider in an airtight storage container (a glass carafe or jar works well) or covered pitcher for up to 1 week.
- TO REHEAT: Very gently rewarm the cider in a pot on the stovetop over low heat or in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe bottle or jar for up to 3 months. Place the frozen cider container in a bowl (to catch any runoff), then let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.
- TO MAKE AHEAD: For ease, freeze your cider in large ice cube trays. You can use the frozen cubes for smoothies or slushies. Or, you can let the cubes thaw and enjoy them as is, mixed into a cocktail (hello, Hot Buttered Bourbon), or in recipes like Apple Cider Caramel Sauce or Apple Cider Chicken.
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More Cozy Drink Recipes
This looks amazing! We have a pear tree that produces a ton of pears…do you think I could swap out the apples for pears without making any other changes?
Hi Christa! I’ve only tested the recipe as is so I wouldn’t be able to advise on any changes to the recipe. If you decide to experiment, let me know how it goes!
I tried it with pears and it was so good!! I followed the recipe exactly, just subbed pears for apples and the whole family loved the results. I’m going to freeze some like you mentioned in your notes so I can pull it out later and add some bourbon =) Saving this recipe to use again every year!
Ohhh, great to know! Thank you Christa!
SO good! We served this for a group of friends, and everyone loved it (even the kiddos!).
I’m SO glad that you enjoyed it, Nancy! Thank you for sharing this kind review!