Preserving Apple Cider

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Apple cider is a healthy and refreshing beverage that can be enjoyed all year with a little planning and a couple of hours in the kitchen. If there is an apple tree in the yard, it could provide 20 or 30 gallons of tasty apple cider. Deciding on when to enjoy the cider and for how long is where the planning comes in. How much cider is needed for fresh consumption in a week? How much cider is needed for a month? And, how much cider will be needed for the year?

Preparing Apples For Juice

No matter how the apples will be processed, they need to be carefully washed to remove pesticides, dirt and any stray organic matter. Cider is best when made from freshly picked apples. Avoid those apples with bruises or rotten parts. A visit to the local farmer's market, or local apple orchard is a good way to find organic cider too.

Short-Term Cider Storage

Apple cider can be stored in the refrigerator for about seven days if in an airtight container. The United States Drug Administration suggests pregnant women, the elderly and children should not drink unpasteurized apple cider as it may contain bacteria.

To pasteurize cider for slightly longer storage, heat it to 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 degrees Celsius) then cider may be stored in a refrigerator for about 3-weeks.

Preserving Cider For Longer Storage

To preserve cider for a year simply freeze it. Apple cider may be kept in the freezer with only a slight loss of flavor and darkening of the cider’s color. The biggest disadvantage is most people will quickly run out of freezer space.

The best method of apple cider storage is to preserve it in quart jars by “canning” which is the same way as preserving jams and jellies.

Choosing The Right Equipment For Canning

Understanding the canning process is important for preserving juice and food. Canning interrupts the normal spoilage and decaying cycle of food by heating the food inside a glass container or jar that is closed with a two-piece vacuum sealing lid and ring. As heat is applied and held there for a period of time, air is driven out of the jar. As the jar cools, the lid seals onto the jar preventing outside organisms from entering and spoiling the food. Canning is also called processing by some.

Most home canning is done with a boiling water canner. It’s recommended for high-acid foods such as: apples, apricots, blackberries, lemons, peaches, pears, pickles and tomatoes.

Boiling water canners are nothing more than a deep pot or kettle with a wire rack to hold jars off the bottom of the pot. The pot needs to be sufficiently deep allowing water to cover a quart jar and provide another 1 to 2-inches of space to prevent boil-over.

Understanding Headspace When Canning

As food is heated it expands. Recipes for canning will always include the necessary headspace and that needs to be followed carefully. Headspace is the gap from the top of the fruit, or juice to the top edge of the jar.

Preparing For Canning Apple Cider

Clean the jars, lids and rings by washing in hot soapy water. There is no need to dry the lids and rings. Carefully examine the jars for cracks or chips out of the rim surface. Discard those jars that show damage.

Heat the jars by filling with boiling water and placing them on the rack in the bottom of the boiling-water canner. For pint and quart jars, add water to the jars and canner until the jars are nearly two-thirds full. Cover the canner and bring the water to a simmer (108-degrees F.) over a medium heat. Do not boil the jars. Heat processing will destroy any microorganisms in the cider and in the containers. Keep the jars hot until ready to fill them.

Set the screw bands or rings aside and keep them at room temperature. Place the lids in a small saucepan and heat to a simmer (108-degrees F.) over a medium heat. Do not boil. Keep the lids hot until ready to use them.

Use a jar lifter to remove the jars from the canner, one at a time, pouring the hot water back into the canner. Place the jar on a heat-protected surface such as a wood cutting board, a towel or a heatproof tray. Avoid placing the hot jar on a cold surface. This can break the jar due to thermal shock.

Heat the apple cider for 5-minutes at 190 degrees F. Do not boil. Place a jar funnel on the top of the jar and ladle the hot cider into the heated jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Attach the two-piece lid and ring and tighten. Place each jar back into the in the boiling-water canner and process the cider for 10 minutes.

Remove the jars from the water and set on a thick towel to cool. Check to confirm the lids have sealed properly. They will make a popping sound as they seal. Any jars that don’t seal properly should be refrigerated or reprocessed immediately.

How To Store Canned Apple Cider

Home-canned food and juices are best consumed within one year. After one year, natural chemical changes can occur that will diminish the taste and quality. Food stored for longer than one year is not necessarily bad, but the quality, taste and nutritional value will be reduced.

Store cider jars in a cool dark area for best results.

Helpful canning tools

  • Boiling water canner and jar rack
  • Jar funnel
  • Jar lifter
  • Bubble remover and headspace gauge
  • Kitchen tongs
  • Ladle

Additional helpful information on canning

The Ball Blue Book of Preserving
USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning

Last Updated: September 16, 2012
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About Bill Washburn William "Bill" Washburn has a BA in advertising from the Art Center College of Design and has taught at the University of Southern California and Northrup University. Writing from a well-connected studio in the rural foothills of the west coast, he is a frequent speaker at local art associations and has published numerous articles discussing periods of art history and the fundamentals of drawing and painting. William is a master gardener who grows his own culinary herbs, organic heirloom vegetables and a variety of fruits. He writes frequently about his gardening experiences on his website Pioneer Dad. He is an accomplished advertising writer, fine art painter, and art director with more than 20 years' experience. 

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