Nectar comes in many forms. Hummingbirds love it. Bees and butterflies love it. We love it best this month in the form of Hubby’s homemade cider!
We really didn’t know what to expect from this first hard cider adventure. This is all new to us, and we expect to make mistakes. The apple pressing was great fun, which I wrote about here. Thanks to a bountiful apple harvest at Coppertop, ten gallons of fresh cider were on their way to becoming something beautiful. First, we enjoyed drinking a pitcher of fresh, unfiltered cider and froze a half gallon to mull for the holidays.
To ferment the remaining nine gallons, Hubby selected two types of active dry wine yeast, one for each food-grade bucket, so we could begin to get a feel for what might work best in our cider-making future. Red Star’s Pasteur Champagne was the one he added no sugar to; 20 oz. of white sugar went into the bucket containing Red Star’s Cote des Blancs. Bubbling began within a couple of days. We had fermentation! Our garage had become the site of an adult science fair project.
About a month after adding yeast and over a week after the bubbling ceased, we transferred the clear cider into clean buckets. This transfer took place after a tasting, of course. The beverage was still very apple-y, but was a bit too dry since the yeast had eaten all the fruit sugar. Both buckets seemed to have similar alcohol content, but this was difficult to confirm since Hubby’s still a novice at using a hydrometer.
The muck settled on the bottoms of the original buckets was the spent yeast, also called the “lees.”
To enhance flavor, we then added two pounds of organic honey plus some secret spices to each clean 5-gallon bucket. The honey should also increase the eventual alcohol content. The siphoned cider has residual yeast in it ready to consume the honey and produce alcohol, also known as fermentation. The other gift the yeast produces is carbon dioxide, also known as carbonation.
After allowing the spices to infuse the cider for just a few hours, we siphoned the liquid gold into sterilized glass jars of various sizes. We’d researched buying carboys, growlers, and other beverage vessels, but decided this first try to stick with cheap and readily available Ball glass jars. Being unable to control the carbonation is a discouraging factor in using jars, since they’re not built to withstand the pressure inside as capped or corked bottles are. The jars (with loose lids since we’re aiming for semi-still cider) were whisked away to the cool and dark basement where the magic continues. It should be stated that we selected an empty basement closet for storage in case of any minor cider explosions. 😉
The waiting is not fun. In my opinion, the cider is delicious now, but Hubby has been pretty stingy, pouring us small glasses now and then, wanting to allow the majority of it to develop in flavor. I know he’s glad I’m not as stingy with the many batches of apple crisp in our freezer! So, we’ve drunk about three quarts so far and are loving Coppertop cider. If I were a cider critic I would write of its bouquet and mouthfeel, using words like “a beefy blend with a lush nose” but I simply know it’s good stuff. It’s plenty apple-y, sweet-ish and refreshing. The spices and honey helped transform this brew into a delicious nectar. Cheers!
Early November Note: Since I’ve been dreaming of explosions, I splurged and surprised Hubby with a couple cases of flip-top bottles for his cider. We spent a fun evening re-bottling together.