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!

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Wine Making at Home, Part III : The Brewing Process

So now that you know why wine making is a great hobby, and know about the equipment you need to get started, all that’s really left to address is the actual brewing process. After that, I can start plying you with yummy wine recipes to try!

The nice thing about wine making is that it can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it.

On one end of the spectrum, you can take some fruit concentrate, add water and yeast, and let it do its thing. On the other, you can extract the juice from fresh fruits, combine them in many ways, add herbs or spices to add flavor. You can age them with wood chips, you can carbonate, you can use special ingredients to help clarify your wine…

At its heart, however, wine making starts with a very simple concept.

You start with fermentable sugars in a liquid, introduce yeast, and let it do its thing. The yeast digests the sugars, and alcohol is the byproduct – this is fermentation. The yeast reproduce and stay suspended in the wine as it ferments. As the alcohol content in the solution goes up, the yeast cells are less able to tolerate their living environment, and they die off.


A 6 gallon batch of our mango wine,
on day 1. Yum!

As the yeast die, they settle on the bottom of the fermenting vessel. Throughout the fermentation process, the wine is removed from the layer of fruit & dead yeast sediment on the bottom, being transferred to a clean fermenting jug (carboy) every few months. This process is called “racking”. When fermentation is complete, the wine is left to clarify as the last of the yeast settle to the bottom of the fermenter. The wine is then bottled, and aged (if desired).

.. and then, you drink it. Yum! Read on for more information about the brewing process..

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Home Brewing: The Genesis of our Favorite Hobby… and a Gift Idea!

Picture it… Minnesota, October of 2009. It was our second year in our new house, and -unlike the year before – the giant apple tree out back was fruiting.

Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement. The giant apple tree out back was loaded with hundreds of pounds of apples, with even more apples on the ground rotting. We’d never had to deal with an apple tree before, so between a lack of experience, a lack of planning, and a shortage of time – we were woefully unprepared to deal with the onslaught of apples.

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As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to have my best ideas while I’m sleeping. My husband really shouldn’t have been surprised when I woke him up that Sunday morning with the words he has grown to dread: “I have an idea!”. He *claims* to dread them anyway, saying that whenever I utter that phrase, it means money or effort. Well, true… but it also means things like doing something crazy for a cake competition, making pretzels stuffed with jalapeno poppers, or – in this case – making hard apple cider.

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