Hard Cider – From Tree to Bottle

What has become an annual tradition, this past October we had an apple pressing out at the farm.  Kids helped pick and we all helped sort, clean, sanitize, press and fill up jugs. It is a ton of fun (and work) and Dave (our farmer) loves to break out some of the grills and prepare bacon wrapped and stuffed jalapeños, usually a soup of some kind and we all bring something from home to make sure we can not only drink but eat well when working on those fall days.

The rules are pretty simple, if you help, you get to go home with your “share” of the juice. Nothing like freshly pressed cider. Rustic, naturally sweet, and great as a laxative!

Last year (2015), I confiscated all of our “share” and made my first batch of cider.  I found a recipe from a source in the Midwest. Read it, was able to figure out what they were saying because it was in layman’s terms, so went with it.  I didnt’ had any other sweeteners (natural or otherwise) as I wanted to see what would happen with just the natural juice (we added some pears too) and the yeast.  The recipe said it would be dry and tart. As advertised. They call it English or “Farmhouse” cider because I supposed you could make it by not needing to add any other yeast (just leave it out to capture yeastiness in the air) and sugar and honey were probably at a premium so the yeast grabbed onto the natural sugars provided by the freshly pressed fruit. It was, however pretty delicious even with the slight funk.

The kids were mad.  They wanted their share too. After all, they worked for it as well.  Oops.

This year I was a lot nicer because I let them have half (we got 10 gallons) and I got to ferment the other half.  I learned a lot from the first one, read some more blogs, took some pics of a cool but expensive cider-making book that I didn’t want to pay for, and even asked a few questions of some of the guys I have met in the home brew “community.”

This batch took longer but the wait was worth it.   5 gallons, heated to a simmer of about 185 degrees for an hour, cool with my new wort chiller and then dropped into fermentation bucket and pitched the champagne yeast. Waited for about 10 days so no more bubbles, then transferred to carboy for secondary ferment. Added brown sugar so yeast would grab onto it and let rest for 2 more weeks. This “aging” process gave this cider more depth, more “appleness” and of course upped the ABV a tad (more sugar conversion).

Dominica gave me my first “corny” keg set up (corny, or cornelius, kegs are 5 gallon kegs that Coke and Pepsi used to use for soda fountains, and since they now do cardboard and specially formulated pouches, these kegs get to be recycled for us home brewers!) complete with 5 gallon keg, CO2 and regulator.  I transferred the cider from carbooy to the keg and back sweetened with about 1/2 cup of simple syrup.

Took about 2 days in the cold garage at about 10 PSI but had my first glass to celebrate the end of the year. Lightly fizzy, lightly sweet and super delicious. I learned even more and don’t plan on waiting to make my next batch of cider til next the fall. Just wait. Cheers.

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