Drinking fresh apple cider is a great way to celebrate autumn.  Making it yourself can be an even greater treat, but there are some tips to keep in mind to keep your cider safe, explains Lavonne Meyer, SDSU Extension Food Safety Field Specialist.

Below Meyer shares those tips.

Avoid using apples that have visible signs of decay or mold growth. Apples used for cider don't have to be flawless, but they do need to be free from spoilage. 

Cut out any spoilage areas as the spoiled areas will cause the juice to ferment and will ruin the cider.

Wash apples thoroughly before pressing or grinding to make cider. Remember, windfall apples could be contaminated with bacteria. Raw juice or cider has been linked with E.coli 0157:H7. Outbreaks usually happen when fallen fruit comes in contact with domestic or wild animals that frequent an orchard.

Also, wash your hands and sanitize the equipment. 

To sanitize equipment, place washed and rinsed utensils and equipment in a mixture of 1 tablespoon household bleach per gallon of water for at least 1 minute. Air dry to avoid contaminating equipment and utensils with an unclean and sanitized drying cloth.

Grinding is necessary to release the juice from the apples. Let the crushed fruit stand for 30 minutes to an hour to yield more cider from the apples.

The cider can be pressed from the crushed apples in a cider press. A homemade press for small batches can be made using a strong jelly bag and a rolling pin.  The bag should be pressed slowly and steadily to avoid bursting the bag. 

Pasteurize the cider to ensure safety by heating to at least 160 degrees F.  Pasteurization kills harmful bacteria. This is especially important if pregnant women, young children, older adults and people with compromised immune systems are going to drink the cider.

Store pasteurized cider in the refrigerator for immediate use, or up to 5 days. Put cider in the freezer if you want to keep it longer. To freeze, pour hot cider into plastic or glass freezer containers, leaving ½ inch to 2 inch headspace for expansion, depending on the size of the container. Refrigerate until cool and then place in the freezer.