Throughout the autumn of last year our CSA box was particularly well supplied with apples. As fast as we tried to eat them, dry them, make sauce or preserve them in some other way, before we knew it another week had gone by and we had another pile on our hands.
By the end of October the surplus had reached the stage where I opted to turn it into cider, or “hard cider” as it is known on this side of the Atlantic. It is not a decision I take lightly as I don’t have a cider press, making it a fairly labour intensive process which doesn’t yield a huge amount of cider, but there is a certain satisfaction to be gained from watching the precious liquid ferment and bubble away and eventually enjoying the fruits of all that work with a chilled glass of the finished product.
The process I use is basically the one to be found in this video from theperennialplate.com.
First, I wash the apples, before coarsely chopping them, pips and all, and throwing them in a food processor. They are then processed until finely chopped. The resulting chopped apples are then passed through a food mill. This is the most laborious part of the process, but I keep cranking that handle until I get as much pulp out of the apples as I can, leaving behind just a dry apple residue.
The final stage is to take the thick pulp from the food mill and leave it to strain through muslin or a jelly bag to yield as much juice as you can. In this case, 17 apples yielded 50 fl.oz of juice.
In the video on theperennialplate.com they rely on the natural yeasts present on the apples to trigger the fermentation. I prefer to give nature a helping hand, and add champagne yeast to the juice. Yeast sachets from wine making stores are typically enough to ferment 5 gallons so estimate how much to use based on how much juice you have. It is not an exact science so don’t worry about being too precise, and if in doubt, use a little more yeast than you think you need.
Put the juice and yeast in a sanitised glass vessel, seal with an airlock and leave to bubble away for a few weeks until the fermentation activity slows down, the juice clears and a thick layer of sediment forms. In this case it took about 5 weeks. I then syphoned the cider into a fresh fermenting vessel, leaving behind the sediment.
I left this for a couple of weeks until all fermentation had stopped before bottling. My final yield was just enough to fill three 11oz bottles. I added half a teaspoon of granulated sugar to each bottle to ensure a secondary fermentation in the bottle to give the final cider some sparkle.
Leave for at least a couple of weeks for the secondary fermentation to generate some fizz in the bottle. The cider will be good for at least a year. I’ve cracked open dusty bottles from my basement that are 3-4 years old and they are still good.