Backyard apple cider safety
August 29, 2018 10:26 AM   Subscribe

I'm having a lot of people over to make cider from the apples on my tree. We're using a traditional manual apple press that first grinds the apples, then presses the juice out of them. Even though we'll be rinsing and sorting the apples after they're picked, many of the apples will have some form of insect damage. How risky is drinking the unpasteurized juice? What food safety precautions should we take?

We've done this for several years and I didn't worry about safety before. As far as I know, there wasn't a problem. We're not making fermented cider, just juice that people can take home in 1/2 gallon containers. I suppose they could ferment it if they want, but they probably won't. Still, I am wondering:
• Should I advise guests not to drink the raw juice, but wait until they pasteurize it at home? The raw juice is soooo delicious, and people are going to want to drink it right as it's pressed.
• How long will the cider be safe in the fridge?
• Should I try to bleach the inside of the press before the event?
• Any other food safety things I'm missing?
posted by oxisos to Food & Drink (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've gotten food safety advice from this site before in other homemade food contexts, and I think it should answer a number of your questions.
posted by olinerd at 10:54 AM on August 29, 2018

Former small-scale commercial producer and seller of unpasteurized cider here: if you've culled any apples with dry or wet rot and your equipment is near-sterile and dry before you start, you'll all be fine. Refrigerate for maybe a week... or freeze or add a few grams of potassium sorbate per gallon to get months.
posted by glibhamdreck at 11:12 AM on August 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

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 probable. 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. You can prevent these risks by boiling unpasteurized apple cider before drinking it, or drinking pasteurized cider or juice.

In addition to bacterial concerns, there is a fungal toxin called Patulin that can form during apple cider production and storage. Patulin forms when there is mold growth on or in the apples. This toxin is heat stable and can survive pasteurization.

More from U. Main extension here. In general when interest in harvest and safety of crops, search for your terms plus ‘extension service’ and possibly your state. MSU extension and many other have similar info on fresh cider. Of course they have to err on the conservative side, much like the USDA does.
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:32 AM on August 29, 2018

Might be worth searching the Cider Digest mailing list. You could subscribe and ask, but it doesn't see a lot of activity these days.
posted by maurice at 11:33 AM on August 29, 2018

My father in law drops the apples in a quite diluted bleach bath before pressing. He’s been making cider for years and i don’t think he’d do that unless he felt he had to.
posted by kerf at 1:34 PM on August 29, 2018

I attend an annual cider party where we make gallons of the stuff at a time. We don't do much more than rinse the apples and cut off the dead/damaged parts, so I won't speak to the food safety bit.

The cider doesn't last too long in the fridge before starting to turn into vinegar, usually about 10 days. We can usually get through a gallon, maybe two in that time, so we freeze anything beyond that if our share is larger. The hot buttered cider is amazing, though.
posted by Alison at 3:11 PM on August 29, 2018

We took our apples to a professional press to be cidered, but it was never pasteurized. They rinsed the apples with water. Our load always included drops and apples with bad spots. We drank it for years and I don't remember any kind of foodborne illness. Like Alison, we kept the back stock in the freezer.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:55 PM on August 29, 2018

I volunteer in Switzerland at a neighborhood farm where we make cider. The apples are rinsed in water and we cut out visible rotten spots as well as worms. Some of the apples are picked and others are collected from the ground and look pretty ugly. The cider is filtered afterwards through a screen. Some of it is sold and consumed immediately. Some of it is pasteurized and the rest is stored in colder refrigerators. We've never had any problems and there is never been a call to do anything additional. I don't think there is any need to advise your guests to do anything, unless you want to absolve yourself of legal responsibility.

[If you are in Zürich at the end of October and want to come to our Cider Festival send me a memail.]
posted by jazh at 3:29 AM on August 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

You could ask the alcoholic cider-makers * at, who focus on the hard stuff but certainly are well-versed in basic food safety. Plenty of apple-growers and non-alcoholic cider-pressers there, too.

Note *: They are making alcoholic cider; whether or not the people themselves are alcoholics I couldn't say.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:44 AM on August 30, 2018

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