Homemade Hard Apple Cider

After a long, overly hot summer… man, did it ever feel good to wake up to 44 degrees!

At this point, we lost our entire summer to the tornado – it happened May 22, and we’ve been busting our butts ever since. Any outdoor activities have been long hours of removing debris, hauling bricks, or construction. Sunburns all around, a heat stroke… Yeah, I’m about ready to commit the summer 0f 2011 to the books – complete write off.

I love fall. I love the smell of the air, the feel of it against my skin, the colors… everything. I love being able to go outside without worrying about the possibility of overheating. I love that fall means that winter is right around the corner. It’s like this perfect, happy, and drawn-out reward for surviving summer.

You know what else autumn brings? Apples.

It was actually an abundance of apples at our last home, that led to our home brewing hobby. (Read all about our first homebrewing attempt!).

We’re probably not going to have time to put on a batch this year, because… really. We still haven’t racked our wines that were due for it back in early June! It sucks, but by posting our recipe, we can live vicariously through you, my awesome readers!

If you haven’t attempted making hard cider or wine before, don’t be intimidated! Check out our primer to home brewing, it starts here, with parts 2 and 3 here and here. Just a small handful of entries, and you’ll be good to go!

Hard cider recipe

5 gallons of apple cider*
5-10 lbs white and/or brown sugar (we use ~7 lbs brown sugar)**
2 packets of wine yeast (We like Red Star “Cote de Blancs” for this recipe)

Optional Ingredients:***
Maple syrup

1 6.5 gallon fermenter bucket and lid
1 or 2 6.5 gallon glass carboys & stoppers
1 air lock
Siphon, siphon tubing.

How to make hard apple cider

In large stock pot, combine apple cider with the sugar. Heat to almost boiling, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Continue to heat for about 45 minutes – never allowing it to come to a boil. Remove from heat, cover with sanitized pot lid. (If you don’t have a 7-10 gallon stock pot or turkey fryer, you can do this in batches.)

Once mixture has cooled to room temperature, use a sanitized funnel to transfer cooled mixture to a sanitized 6.5-7.5 gallon fermenter. Using clean hands and sanitized utensils, add any flavoring ingredients you’ll be using to the fermenter. Go easy on the flavorings – you can always add more later, but cannot take it away if you overdo it!.

Using sanitized equipment, take a gravity reading. Keep track of the number! (This is an optional step, but will allow you to calculate your final ABV %)

Sprinkle yeast into fermenter, cover with sanitized air lock. Let sit, undisturbed, overnight.

Within 48 hours, you should notice fermentation activity – bubbles in the airlock, carbonation and /or swirling in the cider must. This means you’re good to go! Put the carboy somewhere cool (not cold!), and leave it alone for a month or so.

Using sanitized equipment, rack the clarified cider off the sediment, into a clean, freshly sanitized 6.5 gallon carboy. Cap with sanitized airlock, leave it alone for another 2-3 months.

When you’ve let it clarify as much as you have patience for – with no more sediment being produced – you can move on to bottling:

For uncarbonated cider:

Using sanitized equipment, take a final gravity reading, then rack the cider into clean, sanitized beer bottles, and cap them. Allow to age for a month or so before drinking. (Like wine, the flavor improves with age!)

For naturally carbonated cider:

In a small pot, mix together 1 cup of water with 1 cup of sugar or brown sugar. Use a sanitized funnel to pour this into a sanitized large carboy. Rack the cider over into this carboy, swirling it as you go. Bottle cider as described in the previous step. Allow to age at least a month or two – residual yeast will ferment the added sugar, carbonating the cider.

Alternatively, you can rack the cider (without the added sugar syrup!) into a keg and force carbonate it, if you have the set up for that. That’s what we did with our last batch, and blew through it pretty quick during the tornado clean up! Chilled hard apple cider is just what’s needed for that sort of thing, LOL!

Enjoy.. and start planning for next year’s batch(es)!

*Apple Cider: You want it to be preservative free. This is absolutely key! If your apple cider has anything like sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, etc, your yeast will not be able to ferment it. Worst case scenario, most grocery stores will carry a pasteurized apple cider in plastic bottles, near the apple juice. Go for it!

** Sugar: While sugar is technically optional, NOT adding any sugar will result in a very, very dry cider. Any amount of sugar will result in a higher alcohol content. At around 7 lbs, you should have a good, semi sweet cider. We like to use brown sugar, as we find that it gives the final cider a richer flavor. Feel free to use either type, raw cane sugar, or a mixture of any/all of these.

*** Optional Ingredients: While you don’t need any of these, they can enhance the flavor of your final cider, and allow for a LOT of personalization. Honey can be swapped for all or part of your sugar. Maple syrup and brown sugar can be added for flavor, or swapped for PART of your sugar (Flavors too strong to swap for ALL).

Add a 2-5 lbs of raisins to the primary fermenter for added flavor AND body.

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