Hard Cider: Part I

14 11 2010

When my old bike messenger chum Morgan invited me to tag along on her cider-making expedition, I couldn’t refuse. I mean, homemade hard cider! I had visions of an old-timey apple press, mugs of frothy brew, and of course we would all be wearing those white shirts with billowy sleeves that everyone wore in the 1500’s, right? I imagined we’d also sing British sailing songs while waving our mugs around.

It turned out my vision of homemade hard cider was just a tad off. And it wasn’t just my jumbled historical/geographic ideals that  were wrong. I was a little muddled on the process, too. When I told Robert what we had planned, he said his vision involved a 5-gallon bucket and lots of plastic tubing. Apparently he was more informed on homebrew than I was. Thank god Morgan and Kristi had the foresight to watch an informative DVD on the whole process, because I would not have been any help. “We’ve got to let this apple froth sit in these oak barrels for three months!” That’s how I would have gone about it.

Here’s a rough outline of the process: First we spent hours and hours chopping apples and grinding them with the Kitchen Aid grinder attachment. Oh, sorry, let me back up – Morgan got a windfall of apples from her boss who has a prolific tree in her yard. We had a giant box and two big tote bags full. So we chopped and chopped and ground and chopped and ground and chopped and ground and ground again. Amazingly, no digits were lost in the chopping frenzy! For that I am grateful. “Here, try this cider, sorry it tastes a little bit like finger.”  If you want to try making cider, might I suggest the grinder attachment? It was amazing. And it made the job much, much easier than it otherwise would have been. I mean, how on earth would we have smushed those apples? A two by four? A bible?

All of the grinding produced what is technically called pomace, but what is in reality apple pulp. A very juicy apple pulp. We tossed all of it in a cheesecloth bag and squeezed. I was happy to take on the role of prime squeezer, at least until I squeezed so hard that I broke the bag. I never knew my hands were that strong. It is slightly embarrassing.

All of the squeezing yielded about 3 or so gallons of cider (not hard cider yet, just normal, soft cider), which we poured into a couple of large pans and heated up (to 180 degrees, I think? Yeesh, don’t follow my instructions. You will probably die of a virulent cider bacteria. Definitely watch the video. I hear it’s a cinematic tour de force. Morgan and Kristi said it came with their cider-making paraphernalia. We let the cider cool, and then into a sterilized 5-gallon water container it went.

Um, that's not cider in there. Don't worry. That's just the jug being sterilized.

And there it sat for a few weeks, with a special top on it, while Morgan monitored the bubbles. I think they may have poured it out and then back in again at one point, but I’m not sure.

Stay tuned for Hard Cider: Part II!

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