Hands down, the perfect fall beverage is apple cider. It's versatile, delicious, and healthy. Here's how you make it.
Get yourself a friend with apple trees or go to an orchard and pick your heart out. Also get some pears- Asian pears are great. Unfortunately, if you don't have a cheap or free source of fresh apples, your cider is going to be really expensive.
I'm lucky enough to have an acquaintance with a yard full of mature apple trees - dusty, pale green apples with a pink blush, small apples with classic red skin, big juicy golden apples, tart green apples - that are sagging with hundreds of pounds of ripe fruit right now. There are also two Asian pear trees. She can't possibly eat all the fruit herself, not even a fraction of them, so she has encouraged my boyfriend and I to take as many as we want. So the other day we filled a brown paper bag with different kinds of apples and maybe 1/4 that many Asian pears and went home to do some hardcore cider-making.
Okay. So get a whole bunch of apples (very scientific aren't I?) and some pears too. Try for a mixture of sweet and tart, red and gold and green skins.
Now beg, borrow, or steal -er, buy- a juicer. Masticating juicers have metal gears that grind the juice out of the fruit. These are much better than standard centrifugal juicers - top of the line twin-gear masticating juicers like the Green Star cost like $400. Keep your eye on eBay. My bf got a Green Star for $36 plus shipping. You can grind your own nut butters with those things - they're awesome.
In addition to a juicer and a crapload of apples, you'll also need containers. Mason jars with screw-on plastic lids, gallon glass jugs, well-rinsed glass bottles that used to hold spaghetti sauce...whatever works.
Great. Now put on some good music, set up the juicer, and begin.
Wash, core and section all the fruit. A nifty apple corer-sectioner device -that's the proper name, I swear- will greatly expedite this process. Position containers at the proper juicer openings. Exact procedures for that will depend on the juicer you have. Then turn on the juicer and start feeding apple and pear sections into it.
You'll end up with a rich, brown, tangy-sweet cider that tastes better than even the best store-bought cider. You don't need to add sugar or spices or anything. (I was kind of astonished.)
Drink it cold.
Drink it hot.
Make cider Popsicles.
Make cider sno-cones.
Freeze some so you can have hot cider all winter.
Tie plaid ribbon bows around Mason jars of cider and give them as fall gifts.
Add rum, cinnamon, brown sugar, and allspice (to taste- Google will bring up gazillions of recipes if you don't like experimenting) for rum-spiced cider.
Serve it with coffee cake.
Stir it with a cinnamon stick.
Heat it on the stove with a couple of red-hot candies in the bottom.
Make an apple cider float with vanilla bean ice cream and caramel sauce drizzled over the top.
Photo: public domain image, originated with the research arm of the USDA (via Wikipedia)