My last few posts were about cider. At that point, several other people were also talking about making cider - murphyfish and Julie specifically. I was asked to post about my process to compare notes. I am flattered that people are interested. Of course, you might imagine, if you've been to this blog with any regularity, my process tends to be very simply and natural - at least as much as I can make it in the given time, with the resources, available.
This year, we foraged all of the apples we used for cider. This is not always the case. In past years, we have purchased unpasturized sweet cider and we have purchased apples for juicing. This year, we were cognizant of the generosity of the Earth Mother. Everywhere we went, we saw apple trees untended and unappreciated. We are so grateful. On the drive to the girls's dance classes each week, we counted no less than a dozen trees along the roadsides. When we stopped at the local drop point for Goodwill, we noticed a few trees in a public park. During our nature class, we noticed several apples trees in a local river sanctuary. We noted them as we saw them.
I mentioned, in another post, that Wendy and I foraged 33 lbs (16 kg) of apples. After that, we were told of some other trees in a local adult community where the apples needed to be picked because they were simply falling on the ground and rotting. Wendy, the girls, and I went and within 15 minutes had foraged another 45 lbs (22 kg) of lovely (not perfect, but lovely), sweet red apples. And, while we were helping the dance studio owner move some wood (which we were given - bonus), we noticed her apple trees were dropping apples like crazy. The deer sign was incredible. We picked her a large bag of apples as well as 14 lbs (7 kg) for ourselves. If you are counting, that is roughly 92 lbs (46 kg) if apples foraged for FREE. These were apples that were going to drop and rot. We estimated afterwards that we could easily forage 250-400 lb (125-200 kg) of apples in a year, if we are careful to pick these as they ripen (we missed some of the earlier apples).
This year, we juiced the apples with a juicer. We found one on e-bay from a local vendor for $35.
No, it did not come with the oranges - this is about apple cider. I was sent a few cool links about juicing. Google "washing machine apple cider" on youtube. I did talk about making a press from a car jack, but never got to it. So ... smash ... it is juice. The juicer yielded about 2.5 gallons (10 liters) of juice per 45 lbs (22 kg) of apples.
So, you've come to the crux of my secret exilir. I share this hesitantly ... it is my secret recipe.
OK ... ready.
I add enough sugar to get to 7-10% alcohol as measured with a triple scale hydrometer. The last batch of apples, the one with the lovely red ones, was 7% without any sugar ... just the apples. I have made it as strong as 14% and as weak as 4%. This, I pour into the fermentation bucket. Then, I add the yeast ... I have typically just use Munton's ale yeast.
Here's the secret bit ....
Then, I cover it and shove an air lock into the lid. Really ... not so exciting is it?! I then let the cider ferment for a week or so ... until it stops bubbling.
Racking It Up ... er, Off
When the cider stops bubbling, I will rack it off into a carboy. This, I let sit for months ... until it is a clear as I want it. When I am satisfied, I will bottle it adding 1 tsp of sugar to each 1 liter bottle. The sugar will feed any remianing yeast and carbonate the cider. It is optional. Then, I let it sit ... for months. Each of the bottles is typically 6 months old before I drink it.
I don't think I will be winning any contests with it, but it is good cider. Wendy and I enjoy it. Isn't that all that really matters. As you can tell, most of the steps is subject to your own likings or whims. Make it as strong as you like ... let it sit as long as you like ... make it fizzy, or not ... enjoy!
Oh, and in case you're wondering, this last batch of cider cost me, including yeast and electricity for the juicer, $1.30. After the initial investment for bottles and brewing equipment, this hobby can be very inexpensive, yet rewarding.
In this, as with everything else, I find that there is really no wrong answer ... only learning opportunities. This MooseBoots journey is amazingly simple and flexible. Thank you, Great Spirit / Creator, for your gifts.