It's cider season. Here's a super easy variation you can try using fresh berries, especially aronia berries (chokeberries). Other fruit like highbush cranberries will work too.
I got the idea for this while I was picking chokeberries with Sam Thayer in his orchard a few weeks ago. Sam mentioned making aronia cider, and I knew I needed to try some right away.
Pressing vs Pureeing
What you think of when you imagine berry cider will probably depend a little on your experience with apples.
When foragers I know say cider, they're usually referring to the juice of apples put through a cider press-not a drink containing alcohol. Aronia cider is just adding some berries to the apples when they go through the press.
The genius part of using chokeberries here is that the berries get tannic when they're cooked, so pressing them with the apples cold keeps the flavor unchanged.
I don't have room for a cider press so I developed a work-around. I puree finished cider with berries, and strain-that's it. After it's done, I've been straining the cider back into the half-gallon jug it came in, or into a glass vessel if I want to impress people.
Everyone I've served it to has loved it and it's been a nice option to have for cold drinks for people who don't drink.
Serving cold or warm
If you heat aronia cider, it may get a little tannic. Mostly I've been enjoying it cold on ice, with a splash of soda water to cut the sweetness.
Using Different Fruits
You can use any kinds of berries you like here, and if aronia aren't involved, or are used in a small amount, you can heat the cider up in a crock pot for the holidays and serve it warm like many people do. Here's a few notes to consider with fruit that have seeds and pits.
- I made this with highbush cranberries for a tart cider. Keep the blender on a lower speed and serve cold to keep the color.
- Wild plums could be used, but you'll want to use a puree of fruit already extracted from them with the stones removed.
- Wild Cherries will work too, just make sure to keep the blender on low speed to avoid crushing the stones if you'll serve it cold.
Using frozen fruit
I use frozen fruit for this. Typically berries I've IQF'd (individually-quick-frozen) by laying on a sheet tray with parchment in a single layer and freezing.
After the berries are frozen I portion them into bags, which prevents them freezing in clumps.
Save the pulp to make vinegar
There's still a lot of goodness in the fruit, and if you add some water, sugar, and a splash of living vinegar you can make my Homemade Fruit-Scrap Vinegar.
Aronia Wild Berry Cider
- 1 Blender
- 1 Funnel
- 1 Strainer I use a chinois
- ½ gallon apple cider preferably from a local source.
- 2 cups aronia berries frozen or fresh
Pureeing the cider
- Inspect the berries for any debris or foreign particles, then wash them in a colander.
- Add 6 cups of cider and the aronia berries to the blender. Depending on the size of your blender bowl you may need to work in batches.
- Puree the mixture, keeping it on low to medium speed. All you want to do is infuse the cider-not make a berry puree. Once it looks like bright purple fingerpaint it's done.
- Strain the cider through a fine strainer, tapping on the side with a spoon as opposed to pressing down which can push particles through.
- Pour the strained cider into a container-an empty cider jug is fine. Keep the cider in the fridge.
- Serve the cider on ice with a splash of soda water if you find it too sweet on its own.
I have been making pies with foraged apples and adding some of the arona berry jam that I made following your recipe here, Alan. The combination is delicious. Thank you again for posting all of these wonderful recipes.
Love this approach! We coppiced our aronia this summer as they had overgrown their location, so no fruit this year. But we’ll likely have some again by next season and I will try this. I made aronia-ginger jam from the fruit once years ago and still have a jar in the pantry - it is incredibly tannic and I always struggle to know what to do with it (glaze for beef or venison has been about the only success). I have been looking for a more palate-friendly idea for using the fruit. And leaving plenty in the garden for the birds who will eventually eat it!
Yeah the birds seem to wait a little bit for them here. It's such a simple thing but I've really been enjoying buzzing them up like this. The pulp makes good vinegar too.
I wonder what mechanism makes them *more* tannic after cooking? It usually seems that cooking softens the impression of astringency or tannins in fruit -- e.g. in chokecherries (Prunus virginiana).
I don't know, but it's noticeable, and strong. Sometimes I don't mind it if there's enough sugar and they're cooked down.