There is a long tradition of making hard cider in European culture. Farms would have a few apple trees of varietals just right for making cider. Go back far enough and you hear stories of agricultural workers either being paid in cider or being allowed to take windfall apples for free to make their own. In England it was more often consumed than wine and aged cider with its vinegary goodness would have packed quite a punch.
I love knowing that what I am drinking is preservative free, gave older or fallen apples a second chance, supported Aussie farmers and reduced food processing and transport costs. However I just learnt that cider isn’t just for drinking.
One of my favourite chefs, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, writes “Cider is fabulous in stews – I adore rabbit cooked with cider and cream, pork in cider is a classic, and lamb works well, too. Once mellowed by long cooking, that fruity flavour mingles beautifully with the richness of the meat – a glassful added to the dish in which you roast a leg of lamb or a chicken will help produce a gorgeous gravy. It’s also fabulous as part of the brining liquid for a home-cured ham.”
I use Granny Smith apples in this recipe (the colour of the fresh juice will blow you away) and although not a popular choice there are commercial breweries that use them. I don’t use any added sugar during the primary fermentation cycle. I also don’t bottle my cider (secondary fermentation cycle) and hence it is non-carbonated when I drink it.
After the yeast has consumed all of the apple sugars they will die and gas will cease to escape the airlock. They will however leave a blanket of carbon dioxide, over the cider, that doesn’t have enough pressure to escape. This gas blanket (plus the alcohol) will stop the cider spoiling while you wait for the flavours to mature. I have heard of people waiting months but the longest I have resisted the temptation to get stuck in is about 4 weeks :).
When I do start drinking it I put the demijohn in the fridge to make sure fermentation has stopped, give it a nice chill and keep it fresh. The airlock and bung get replaced with some plastic wrap.
Note: Please only follow this recipe if you are of a legal age to drink in your country.
You will need:
- ~8-10kg Granny Smith apples
- ~6 raisins (to add some wild yeasts to the mix)
- 1 teabag (to add some extra tannins to the mix)
- a sachet of yeast (I use whatever is available, in this case bakers yeast)
- raw sugar to taste (optional and I don’t use any)
- boiling water (to sanitise everything)
- a small bowl
- a fork
- a chopping board
- a long sharp knife
- a teacup
- a juicer (I borrowed a Kuvings cold press juicer from a friend)
- a demijohn (a 4.5 litre glass brewing vessel) with a matching airlock and bung
- a funnel
- Pour boiling water into the demijohn and let it stand. Pay particular attention to hygiene here. Make sure everything is clean and including the demijohn’s mouth and outside surfaces.
- Run boiling water through the airlock and soak the bung in boiling water too.
- Add the contents of one sachet of yeast to a small amount of warm water and give it a quick stir. We do this first so that it has time to start multiplying. A few bubbles here and there let you know it is working and it only took the juicing time to be alive and kicking :).
- Make a cup of very weak tea and let it cool while you bust out your juicer.
- Juice the apples and pour the liquid into the demijohn in batches.
- When the demijohn is about two thirds full pour in the yeast mix and add the 6 raisins.
- Swirl the demijohn gently to mix everything.
- Add more apple juice until you are happy with the level.
- Pop on the bung and the airlock.
- Fill the airlock with recently boiled water that you have let cool.
That is it. It should only take a few hours for the airlock to start making a slow but steady bubbling noise. One of my favourite sounds :).
I leave it inside for its first night and then it goes out to the shed. During winter I put it inside an old fleecy jumper to protect against the cold Perth winter nights. I find this is enough to keep the yeast warm and happy.
Hope you enjoy the process and result as much as I do,
Yeast and tea ready:
Juice your apples:
Add the raisins and the cold tea, add the bung and airlock and then add some clean water to the airlock:
Out to the shed: