Of all the foods I attempted to make this past year with less than satisfactory results, hard cider was the biggest disappointment. I’ve mentioned it before, but the failure of the wild apples on the farm to produce any sort of crop led me to pick a bunch of eating varieties at a local orchard. The cider these made was boring, and I compounded the issue by letting it sit in primary fermentation too long. This year I have every reason for optimism. Just about every tree is dripping with apples, and I’m determined to be on point with every step of the fermentation.
Cider can be about the easiest alcoholic beverage to make at home. Simply taking fresh, unpasteurized juice and putting it in some sort of fermentation vessel will often yield palatable results. Taking a little care with the sorts of fruit in the blend can improve things dramatically, and adding yeast makes it much more likely that a desirable culture will dominate. Moving it from one vessel to a second once it’s mostly done fermenting and letting it age for several months also does a lot to improve the cider’s quality.
I’m trying four different strains of yeast, which from past experience I know has a huge impact on the profile of the finished cider. I also opted to use sulfites, because it will take me a while to get through forty gallons of cider, and it would be a shame if it started going off as soon as I started bottling it.
I’m particularly excited about the cider in the two glass carboys, pictured at the top of this post. A large portion of the fruit that went into these was from a crabapple tree up the hill that has red flesh and a wonderfully tart quality. I hope that the deep ruby color will be even more apparent as it clarifies throughout the fermentation process.