Monday, December 3, 2012

Cider Season

Living in Texas, we don't really have a lot of apple orchards like up north.  There are a few, I got peaches for my Peach Wine at Henrietta Creek, and they also grow apples.  But, none of them grow hard cider apples.  Usually these apples are more tannic, and terrible for eating plain.  Rather than going to buy fresh apples, making a press, pressing the apples into cider myself, and ending up with sub-par cider I just go to Walmart and get gallons of unpasteurized, unfiltered cider for $4.50.  It's a cheaper route at probably the same result.

Last year I made several batches. The first one developed an unpleasant sour/bitter taste after a couple months. I think this goes back to the source apples not being good for hard cider.  During batch-priming, I added a packet of Splenda for every 2 bottles. This unfermentable sweetness balanced out the bitterness well into the summer.  You can make still or carbonated versions, but carbonated it was a very refreshing drink in the middle of the Texas summer.

I also took a couple of gallons and froze it in some gallon jugs.  When inverted in a funnel over a jug, the alcohol and sugar will melt out faster than the water. It makes a drink called Ice Cider or Applejack.  Cider-makers in the northeast used to use this technique to take cider to market.  They could carry less weight and water it down before they sold it.  Unlike my regular cider, I leave my Applejack still.  It feels more like a Brandy. Basic Brewing has a great video podcast on the process.

This year, I'm trying something new that I'm calling Caramel Cider.  I boiled about a gallon and a quarter of store bought cider for an hour.  It reduced to around 2/3 of a gallon.  I always get wrapped up in how simple cider is, and after 6 batches I have never remembered to take a starting gravity reading.  The unboiled version usually gets down to 1.000.  I'm hoping the caramelization from the boil will create some unfermentable sugars so that I don't have to add Splenda again. You can see the color difference in the picture.

First Winter Cider 2012

3/4 gallon of Musselman's Cider
1/2 vial White Labs California Ale Yeast (WLP001)

Caramel Cider 

1.25 gallons Musselman's Cider
Boiled 1 hour, final volume approximately 2/3 gallon
1/2 vial White Labs California Ale Yeast (WLP001)

Brewed 11-14-12
Did not take original gravity readings

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