Wednesday, November 9, 2011


 About a month ago, we started brewing ourselves some cider - at home - for the first time (post here).  I'm not going to pretend that we really have any idea what we're doing in this process, we just do an internet search every time we reach a new step or have questions and sometimes we just wing it.  It seems that the process is rather flexible though, which works out well for us.

Through the process of brewing, I've read over and over now how cider was the preferred beverage of our American forefathers - apples, of course, being a mainstay in early homesteads.  It reminds me that they couldn't just have apple juice any time that they wanted it and they had to find a way to preserve the wonderful, fruity sweetness - and so we get hard apple cider.  I'm not a historian, but it makes me wonder if we have some misconceptions about people of old drinking fermented beverages.  I sometimes hear about the origins of beer, wine and cider and imagine someone in knickers drinking the stuff and stumbling around drunkenly.  While I'm sure that happened, I don't think it's fair to consider that the norm. 

As I said, fermentation was primarily a means of preservation, not simply the creation of an intoxicating beverage. And here's one thing I do understand (I think!) about making cider: the more sugar you add at the beginning, the higher the alcohol content at the end.  It is possible to make cider with as low as 2% alcohol content - which is quite low - by not adding any or just a little bit of sugar, enough to preserve the juice but not so much that you can't enjoy a glass without feeling the effects.  I say all of this to say, that when we pursue home brewing {we may try other beverages in the future} we are not after the alcohol as much as we are interested in the process, ritual even, that humans have been conducting for many, many generations.  I also see it as a step towards self-sufficiency in that we would like to eat in season, which means that we refrain from buying apples and apple juice almost any time but the fall.  So, if we'd like to have some sweet, slightly tangy juice, we'll need to learn to ferment it.  And I must say, it's quite delicious!

Last night, we moved to phase 2 of our cider making.  We "racked it off its lees" into a new container, where we will let it sit for maybe a month and then we will probably bottle it.  For reference, we decided to use an ale yeast, called East Coast Ale Yeast, that functions best around 70 degrees because that's the temperature we keep our apartment.  From what I've read, many people who add yeast add Champagne yeast.  Each kind of yeast will turn out a slightly different end product.  You can also vary how long 1st and 2nd fermentation are, you can add spices and more or less sweetener, and you can age it for whatever period of time you wish.  It is also possible to make fresh cider from organic (and it's very important for the process that they are organic!) apples and rely only on the wild yeasts on the skins to achieve fermentation.


We've been told by multiple sources that cider greatly improves with time, so we just tasted a bit to see what it was like - not bad!  We were also told that we should be able to save that gunk at the bottom of the jar and use it to ferment another batch of cider.  I appreciate methods that allow you to reuse your inputs.  But for now, it's back to waiting.

No comments:

Post a Comment