A few years ago, in an incredibly strange turn of events, my parents became farmers. The decision to purchase a 4-acre homestead came as a huge, yet welcomed surprise.
That first year they planted a garden full of fruits and vegetable, got 18 layer hens who produced about a dozen eggs a day, and established five bee colonies from which they were able to harvest 50 lbs of honey.
The big, unexpected coup? The farm’s already established orchard which had a particularly prolific year. Each day, as they went to feed the chicks and water the garden, they would gather the “drops” from the organic apple trees and once they were at critical mass, they would make cider by using the neighbor’s antique hand press.
There is something truly divine about eating the food that you thoughtfully grew and cared for yourself. The spectrum of flavor is broader and the nourishment feels deeper.
Since my parent’s farm was so productive year it allowed us to get really creative about how to best preserve the bounty. I loved letting my creative juices flow and experimenting with the distinct flavor profiles that came out of the different cider pressings. I had 2 gallons of unpasteurized cider that yielded a very complex flavor, and 7 gallons of pasteurized cider that was a little bland so I ended up infusing those batches with flavors like: vanilla, cinnamon, cranberry, ginger, and rosemary.
When my batches were fully brewed I invited a bunch of friends over to mix and match the flavors and come up with their own cider concoctions. It was one of my favorite nights in a long time.
Here is how you can make hard cider at home:
- 1 gallon Apple Cider, preferably unpasteurized
- 1/5 packet of champagne or dry white wine yeast
- Optional infusions: fresh grated ginger, vanilla bean powder, ground cinnamon, fresh rosemary leaves, cranberry juice
Materials that I use
- 1-gallon glass carboy
- 1 airlock
- Small strainer
- Thermometer (optional)
- NOTE: Most of these items are in our Mead Kit
Sterilize your glass carboy and airlock with soap and hot water. Or you can buy organic apple cider in a one gallon glass jug.
Put the cider into your carboy stopping about 1-2″ from the base of it’s neck.
Add your yeast. The package directions will tell you to dilute it in a warm liquid then add to the cider. I have added it directly to cold cider and had perfectly good results. So don’t worry if you miss that step.
Mix well, making sure the yeast isn’t sticking to the sides of the bottle.
Put on the airlock, making sure there is some water in the top.
Put it in a room where the temperature will remain consistent, anywhere from 65-75 degrees F. This is where the thermometer comes into play.
Check on your cider regularly. If the yeast is attaching to the side of the glass, give it a whirl. Or if the water is evaporating from the airlock, refill it. Otherwise, just let it be.
You will see a lot of bubbling in the first few days. Around day five the bubbling will slow down, it make even look like it’s stopped, but the flavors want to keep developing so let it ferment for at least 3 weeks. You can ferment it up for up to 6 months if you like it very dry. Once it’s done, taste the cider, and then either:
- Put it in the fridge
- Invite over a thirsty group of friends
- Bottle it for future use. I recommend using bail top bottles.
Note about bottling: There will be a lot of sediment at the bottom of your bottle, also called trub. When transferring the liquid to bottles it's best to use a siphon in order to stop the sediment from mixing in with the cider. But when first starting out, I poured the cider through a small sieve lined with 2 layers of cheesecloth, stopping once I got down near the sediment and that worked just fine.
If, after brewing your cider, you want to further enhance the flavor you can do an infusion. You can do single infusions (one ingredient) or combine a few ingredients for a more complex profile. I recommend using one tablespoon total of any of the following, per 1 gallon on cider. Wrap the ingredients in a small square of cheesecloth like a dumpling. Tie it up with bakers string and dangle it down into the bottle. Use the airlock to wedge the top of the string so you can fish out your bundle once the cider has reached the desired flavor. I recommend infusing for at least 24 hours.
- Vanilla bean powder
- Ground cinnamon
- Freshly grated ginger
- Fresh Rosemary leaves
Another flavoring option is fresh juice. Add 2-3 tablespoons of any of the following:
- Cranberry juice
- Cherry juice
- Grape juice