One of our family’s fall traditions is visiting the local apple orchard. There’s nothing quite like picking an apple right off the tree, giving it a little wipe with your shirttail and then taking a crisp juicy bite—right there in the field. Also a given: a warm cup of cider and a fresh apple doughnut. (They really do it right at our orchard.)
I like to pick up a variety of apples and enjoy the memories for days after with the concentrated apple flavor of homemade cider. When you make it in the slow cooker, it literally can’t be easier.
Round up your ingredients:
- Mixed apples, about 3 pounds
- 1 orange
- Spices: I like cinnamon sticks, cloves, and/or nutmeg
- Sweetener: Honey, maple syrup or sugar
You can make this work with whatever apples you prefer, but this time I’ve rounded up tart Granny Smith and mild Gala apples. Wash, core and roughly chop your apples and one navel orange into equal-sized pieces. Toss the fruit, plus 8 cups of water and some spices, into your slow cooker. I kept it simple with three whole cinnamon sticks, but you could add cloves, nutmeg and/or allspice too.
Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours, or low if you have 6 or more hours. About an hour before your time is up, get in there and mash things up with a big wooden spoon (or an old-fashioned potato masher, if you have one). Put the lid back on and let things simmer for another hour. At this point, your house is going to smell amazing.
Next, strain out all the apple bits with a mesh strainer. Take a little taste and decide how much sweet you want to add. The apples you pick (and your taste preferences) will determine how much.
I used a whisk to mix in 1/2 cup of honey, warmed slightly in the microwave to make it dissolve quickly. You could also use white or brown sugar, maple syrup, or any other sweetener you keep on hand – the key here is simplicity! Stir your cider until the sweetener is completely dissolved.
Finally, enjoy! If you’re feeling fancy, you can serve with an extra stick of cinnamon or a thinly sliced apple. It’s like a visit to the apple orchard in mug form.