We’ve posted all through the summer about the fantastic soft fruit crops that have been available over the last few months, with cocktails, cordials and fruit syrups. Come autumn, though, it’s all about the apples.
I’m sure there are more civilized ways to use a surplus of apples (pie, crumble, sauce) but personally, I am all about the cider. Every year we have friends over to make cider at the end of August – this year we pressed a record 32 gallons of juice between us thanks to this summer’s incredible apple crop.
Given a few pieces of brewing equipment it’s remarkably easy for anyone to do.
What You Need:
- Apples. Lots of apples.
- Something to blitz the apples with. A large blender will do, although in recent years, I’ve used a wood shredder, like the classy lady I am.
- A fruit press if you have one (fear not if you don’t, it’s not the end of the world)
- Demijohns to ferment the juice in (see below)
- Fermentation locks (these are small water-filled chambers that allow gas to escape and nothing to get back in)
- A hydrometer
- A siphon tube
- Fermentation stopper, such as campden tablets
What You’ll Do:
Go pick fresh apples if you can. It would probably cost a small fortune to buy a large enough quantity of apples from the grocer to get a reasonable amount of juice, and now is the perfect time for apple picking. Go!
Clean your apples. Considering the best way to find ripe apples is to give the tree a shake and pick them up off the ground, they will want a cleaning. Bruised apples are fine, ones with white spots on are not.
Blitz them apples! If you’re making a small quantity, then a household blender will do the job, you’ll just have to do a few sessions of blending to get a good amount of juice. If, like us, you like to do a huge quantity of juice and cider, you may wish to consider borrowing/hiring a wood shredder (though you’ll have to take it apart and scrub it down with sterilizer first, mind). But I have never felt more alive than when tipping a whole bathtub full of apples into a wood shredder. It’s…empowering!
Now if you have a fruit press, then the next part is easy. If not, I suggest the best way to get the juice out of your apple pulp is by squeezing it out by hand in the first instance. Then, collect together the apple pulp and gather it all into a piece of muslin, and squeeze out as much as you can. Not 100% efficient, but not bad either.
Sterilise your demijohns and pour in the apple juice. Leave out a little bit of juice and use it to take a reading with your hydrometer to determine the alcoholic potential of your juice. 6% is fairly average.
Seal up the demijohns with the fermentation locks, and leave to ferment. There is plenty of yeast in the apples themselves, so you shouldn’t need to add any – you’ll start noticing bubbles in your fermentation lock in a couple of days.
If you’re going for dry cider, then leave the juice until it completely stops fermenting (you’ll be able to tell when it stops bubbling). If you change your mind, you can always add a slosh of apple juice when you serve it up to sweeten it. If you want a sweeter cider, add a fermentation stopper before all the sugar is used up. Either way, don’t forget to take a final reading with the hydrometer to get your final alcohol percentage.
Rack the cider – that is, use the siphon tube to transfer the cider from one demijohn to another, leaving behind the sediment that will have formed at the bottom. Let it age in the demijohn for at least another 4 months – before this it will taste a little harsh. Fear not, intrepid brewer, it should mellow out over time.
Once you’re ready, add your fermentation stopper, and bottle up your cider. Store it somewhere cool and dark. If taken care of in a properly sealed bottle, it should still be tasty (maybe even tastier) in a year or two’s time.
Our cider concept is that each year a group of us meet up and make as much as we can, and then share it out according to the number of hours of labour we each put in.
This year it worked out at about 5 gallons (40 pints) each. Drinking 40 pints of cider in a year: challenge accepted.Add to favorites