Rich, refreshing DIY cider is one of the season's greatest pleasures.
martha stewart glasses of apple cider on tray in front of apple trees
Credit: Paola + Murray

When I moved to my farm about 17 years ago, there on the property were several dozen old, shapely apple trees. My second year there, I harvested my first full crop from them. I was astonished at their productivity, the variety of fruits, and the absolute tastiness of the apples. I had not touched the trees since I moved in: They had not been pruned, nor sprayed or fed, yet they produced a flavorful crop that was excellent for both eating and baking, and amazingly juicy for pressing.

gravenstein apples on tree with leaves
Martha grows a variety of apples on her farm, including ‘Gravenstein’, which are especially good in cider.
| Credit: Paola + Murray

My first thought was This is great apple country. The open land, oriented toward the north, was right for planting, and the soil, which I tested, had a balanced pH of 5.6. I ordered several dozen more trees, mostly semidwarf in growing habit (reaching 12 to 15 feet in height) and varieties I had experimented with at my old home, Turkey Hill. I also purchased two-year-old trees from my old friend and supplier, Henry Leuthardt, a grower in East Moriches, Long Island. Those were already trained in an espalier form, with two sets of horizontal branches. I planted them to grow along wires near my house in three rows, because I thought my grandchildren would love picking from them. Within five years, all of them were producing bushels of apples, some red-skinned, some striped, some green-all crisp, tart, and succulent.

Credit: Bryan Gardner

We soon had many more apples than we, as a family, could consume. I looked into cidermaking as an alternative to pies, crisps, and pink applesauce. I bought a real press and grinder, and half-gallon glass Mason jars for storage. Today I produce all kinds of things from the cider we press: drinks like bourbon sours and hot mulled and hard cider; braised chicken; and even apple-cider vinegar. But it's also always delicious enjoyed simply: icy cold on a brilliant fall day.

Learn How to Make Apple Cider Using a Food Processor


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