A Toast to Fall's Harvest
The Winter Solstice has passed and short, cold days are here. If you planned ahead, the fruits of Summer and Fall are stored in your pantry. We preserved some Gravenstein apples in a very traditional American way - by making hard cider! After all, there are only so many jars of applesauce, apple butter and dried apples you can use. It is only appropriate that we toast the Fall harvest and look forward to Spring with a glass of homemade apple cider.
Hard Apple Cider is easy to make, only requiring apple juice, brewer's yeast and a vessel for fermenting. I've been making beer and cider for a while and have accumulated glass carboys, fermentation airlocks, funnels, siphon hoses and the usual tools of the brewing trade. Fortunately, you can start with inexpensive tools like a 5-gallon bucket with a lid and airlock and reuse champagne bottles or "Grolsch-style" bottles to store your cider. Your local homebrewing store can outfit you with a basic brewing kit.
After making several batches of hard cider I've picked up a few hints and tips:
- Keep everything clean! Sterile brewing vessels and tools make for a clean, consistent fermentation.
- Use cider yeast if you can get it. I've had mixed luck with champagne and ale yeasts.
- Bland apple juice makes bland apple cider. Unfiltered, organic apple juice has more flavor and character.
- Keep your fermentation vessel in a dark, 65-70°F room, away from likely temperature swings.
- Let your cider ferment completely. Bottling too early can lead to unexpected secondary fermentation, broken bottles and cider everywhere.
- Enjoy the fruits of the season and your labor in moderation.