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In the Spring we make dandelion wine. In the Fall, we make hard apple cider.
One of the things I love about making hard apple cider, is it’s a great way to use up those extra not-so-pretty apples or extra apple cider you have laying around. Hard apple cider is beautiful, delicious, seasonal and easy home-brew project.
What You Will Need
- 1 gallon of apple cider
- 1-1 1/2 lbs of sugar or honey
- a glass jar or food-grade bucket
- brewer’s yeast (optional)
- an air lock
- campden tablets
The entire process can be broken down into three different steps:
The first step is to get your hands on a couple gallons of Apple Cider.
- If you have a few apple trees, or access to a pick-your-own or farmer’s market, grab as many as you can and process them with a juicer or press.
- If you don’t have access to fresh apples, store-bought apple cider will work just as well! Just make sure it doesn’t have preservatives in it.
Now that you have your apple cider, there are several options for the yeast you will use.
- Naturally – the skins of the apples, and the air in your house contains natural yeast. Many people prefer using the natural yeast that you’re exposed to every day, thinking that it’s more harmonious to your body than a yeast you’ve never been exposed to. However, wild yeast can be unpredictable and the results are not guaranteed. To use the natural yeast, you will not need to perform any additional actions here.
- Store-Bought Yeast – to use a specific brewers yeast, you will need campden tablets and brewer’s yeast. Nearly any kind of brewer’s yeast can be used (not baker’s yeast!) but your local brew store should have someone knowledgeable who can make suggestions.
Fermentation takes place when the yeast in your liquid eats the available sugar and creates alcohol as a by-product. The ratio here is to add one pound of sugar to one gallon of liquid (for a dry cider) or one and a half pounds of sugar to one gallon of liquid (for a sweeter cider).
Honey can also be used instead of sugar or you can experiment with brown sugar, light brown sugar, sugar in the raw, etc.
Dissolve the sugar or honey into your apple cider by stirring it over heat.
NOTE: to not heat it up too much! Yeast loves 80-100 F, but will die off at 140+ F.
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If you’re using the wild yeast, simply transfer your cider to a sterile, glass container and seal it shut with an airlock. If you don’t have one, people have recorded great success using a balloon spread over the mouth of their glass container with a small hole poked in it, but air locks are very inexpensive and highly recommended.
If you’re using brewer’s yeast, following the instructions on the campden tablets and wait 48 hours before adding the brewer’s yeast (1g per gallon of cider). Simply sprinkle the yeast to the top of your cider, do not mix.
Depending on the type of yeast and the temperature in your house, the fermentation process can take between two weeks and two months. You’ll see the mixture bubbling as the yeast consumes the sugars and transform them to alcohol. Once the bubbling subsides, you can decant it (move the liquid from one container to another, while leaving the sediment behind) and wait another week to allow the yeast to settle out.
NOTE: We were decanting a bottling our brews the old fashioned way of sucking one end of a food-grade tube and scrambling to get it in the secondary container without making too much of a mess for years. We recently got an auto-siphon and it has made things so much easier.
Now you have another choice to make: do you want your cider carbonated or not?
- Non-carbonated (still) hard apple cider: Simply transfer your cider into sanitized jugs or bottles. (We love our amber pop-top bottles) Let it sit for another two weeks.
- Sparkling cider: To add carbonation to your hard apple cider, you’ll want to give the yeast just a little more to chew on before you bottle it. Boil 1/4 cup of water with 1/4 cup brown sugar or honey. Add this to a food-grade, sterilized bucket before siphoning your 1 gallon of apple cider in as well. Then bottle as above. Let sit for another two weeks before drinking.
NOTE: If you’re a beginner brewer, or fermenting wild yeast, open your first bottle OUTDOORS. I still have stains on my kitchen ceiling from my first bottle of hard apple cider that fermented a bit too much in the bottle!
For another great resource for fermented foods and drinks, I love Phickle.