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Food Safety

Making and Preserving Apple Cider

By Angela Treadaway

Fall is here! Can you believe it? It has been so hot this year, but most produce has been pretty plentiful. Hopefully, the fall will be no different. With the leaves changing colors and the air getting cooler, the last of the produce season is upon us. One fall produce we can’t seem to get enough of is APPLES. In addition to being nutritious on their own, they are great for making apple cider. Apple cider is simple to make, but there are a few precautions you need to take to prevent a foodborne illness:

  • Never use apples from the ground. Manure from cattle, deer and even some birds can harbor dangerous bacteria such as E.coli. Washing the apples may remove some bacteria, but not all. It is best to avoid using apples that may have come in contact with animal waste. Outbreaks of foodborne illness have been attributed to the consumption of fresh, unpasteurized cider contaminated with a foodborne pathogen like E. coli O157:H7. The risk is low, but it is still possible. Certain age groups are at a greater risk of complications from harmful bacteria like E. coli O157:H7, especially children, the elderly and persons with compromised immune systems.
  • Use only freshly harvested apples. As apples age, they become less acidic, which may allow bacteria to grow. Try to harvest apples and make the cider within 24 hours.
  • Always pasteurize your cider. The only way to reduce the potential for foodborne bacteria is to pasteurize the cider. To pasteurize, heat cider to at least 160 degrees. Measure the actual temperature with a cooking thermometer. It will taste less “cooked” if it is not boiled. Skim off the foam that may have developed and pour the hot cider into heated, clean and sanitized plastic containers or glass jars. Let cool for about an hour and then refrigerate. Drink within seven days or freeze for longer storage. To freeze, pour hot cider into plastic or glass freezer containers, leaving half an inch headspace for expansion. Leave lid off to cool, then refrigerate overnight and freeze the next day.

Remember, you can’t smell, taste or see bacteria.

Selection of apples - Apples used for cider don't have to be flawless but they do have to be free from spoilage. You can use blemished apples and small-sized apples. You can mix apple varieties together or use all one variety. The only rule is to cut out any spoilage areas on otherwise good apples.

Spoiled areas will cause the juice to ferment too rapidly and will ruin the cider. Apples should be firm and ripe. Green, undermature apples cause a flat flavor when juiced. The best cider comes from a blend of sweet, tart and aromatic apple varieties. A bushel of apples yields about 3 gallons of juice.

Getting ready to prepare apples - Before juicing apples, sort and wash apples well under clean running water. Core and cut the apples into quarters or smaller pieces. Wash glass jars or plastic containers (for freezing) that will be used to hold your pressed apple juice in hot, soapy water. Rinse thoroughly so no soap remains.

Prepare a clean muslin sack or jelly bag for juicing the apples. If using a new muslin sack or pillowcase, wash first to remove any sizing. An old, but clean pillowcase will work.

Always, as with any food preparation, start by washing your hands and forearms thoroughly with hot water and soap for at least 20 to 30 seconds before beginning preparation of the product.

Utensils and equipment can be easily sanitized after washing and rinsing by filling with or soaking in a mixture of 1 teaspoon household bleach per gallon of warm water for at least one minute.

Juicing apples - Small household appliances can be used to juice your apples. Apples should be cored and cut, and then processed through a food chopper, blender or food processor. Put the crushed apple pulp into a clean muslin sack or jelly bag, and squeeze out the juice. If you want to drink the juice now without making cider, pasteurize it by heating to at least 160 degrees. Then, pour juice into clean glass jars or bottles and refrigerate. For larger quantities, consider using a fruit press. Follow the directions that accompany your press for juicing apples. Fresh juices pose a foodborne illness risk if not done correctly and can only be produced in a commercial setting to sell to the public.

For more information on safe preparation and preserving of fruit and vegetable juices at home, search on the internet for Extension service websites.

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