18 July 2015

Making Cider

In my last blog post I wrote about one way of using lots of apples when you have a glut: make apple cider.  My friend E and I had investigated lots of recipes but most seemed very complicated and needed lots of equipment or time. 

Then I read Sally Wise's book A Year on the Farm and came across a recipe in it that seemed ridiculously simple, so we decided to give it a go (thanks E for the photos!).
If you're interested in following this you should go and find a copy of Sally's book to get the exact recipe, but the steps were basically as follows:
  • Chop up a heap of apples (we used 3kg and ended up with 5 x 750ml bottles of cider) without peeling, although we did remove the cores in case the seeds made the cider bitter
  • Put in a big pot with cold water and bring to just under the boil, then pour into a big bucket
  • In a smaller saucepan put cold water, hops and sugar and bring to just under the boil, then add to the bucket.  Sadly in Australia at least hops flower season and apple season don't seem to coincide so we used a few pellets of dried hops from a beer making supplier, which seemed to work very well, but did make us realise that we need to plant some hops for the future - hoping that it might be possible to freeze dry the flowers in summer for later use.
  • Leave bucket for 24hrs, making sure that the apples are completely submerged, then drain through muslin and transfer into wine bottles that have been thoroughly washed with hot, soapy water
  • Add a raisin to each to encourage the wild yeasts to get active and leave for at least a week to do their thing, checking that the bottles aren't building up too much gas.

How simple is that?!  

Observations from making it were that we left the bottles in a cold house for the first week and realised that nothing much was happening, so moved them to a warmer spot for another 5 days or so and they immediately started to ferment.  We were also pretty cautious about not letting them go so far that they exploded, and as a result I don't think we left them quite long enough.  We made a sacrificial tester in a plastic bottle so that we'd be able to see if it was getting too fizzy.  I think next time we could confidently leave them for a bit longer. 

I'm also not sure how much alcohol was in it as we didn't measure the sugar level at the start of the process.  Doing that would have let us compare it at the end and work it out, which I'll do next time we make a batch, using a baume measure from the winery.  My aunt, the winemaker, also suggested that although the wild yeasts in the air obviously did work, it would be important not to boil the water as that would probably kill the yeasts, and it might actually be worth adding a little winemaking yeast to help it along a bit more.  I think if we do this in the future I'd want to be using very strong wine bottles, probably sparkling bottles, to reduce the chance of explosions, and then use crown seals on them.  

But all of that starts to take away from the reason we chose this recipe in the first place, its sheer simplicity.  So maybe we aren't likely to achieve commercial alcohol levels, but it worked, has the potential to use up lots of apple glut, and most importantly, tasted delicious!

Have you made apple cider?  Any tips?


  1. Wow! So easy! I'll see if the library has the book. Otherwise I might buy it. I love her Year in a Bottle. Thanks for inspiring me to try it!

    1. Good luck Linda, I'd love to hear how you go with it.