Making your own Apple Cider
An apple a day, the doctor’s way… When it comes to apple season there’s always a good supply around, and what better way to use them up than by making your own apple cider!
The traditional cider-making method, pulp and press, requires a big, unwieldy, expensive kit. What’s needed is an alternative method that is simple, cheap, compact, quick, efficient, and suited to use in a domestic kitchen. Indeed, this was what we garden apple growers of Scillonian Road, Guildford, England, wanted when we found ourselves with a bumper 500kg of fruit crop in 2011. Not wishing to spend serious money on a pulp-and-press kit, our solution to this happy problem of surplus fruit eventually took the form of our ‘juiceand- strain’ cider-making method. This has a heavy-duty, whole-fruit kitchen juicer at its core, and this is how you go about making it work for you.
What you need
For 20 litres of cider
5g champagne yeast
Carboy (5-litre) with an airlock
Muslin cloth to strain
Hydrometer to measure the gravity
Siphon and bottles
Pick, clean, and prepare your apples Check apples on the tree for ripeness by cupping the fruit in your hand and twisting gently. If it comes away easily then it is ripe. Also, a number of apples having already fallen is a good indicator of ripeness. Don’t use windfall fruit for making fresh apple juice – they may be contaminated with enteric bacteria, which doesn’t wash off. Take all necessary safety precautions if using a ladder to harvest your crop. I have found that a telescopic apple picker is much safer, making it a good investment. Double wash your apples and throw away any bad ones. If not using commercially grown apples, check your fruit for codling moth and other insect damage by cutting the apple in half and removing any detritus.
Clean your equipment
Apple juice and cider are foodstuffs, and all appropriate food handling and safety measures should be followed. Wash your hands and sanitise all surfaces. Sterilise all equipment that will be in contact with fresh apple juice
Juice and strain
Feed apples into the juicer with a steady, even pressure on the pusher. You’ll find that the juicing work is done in a flash, although it takes a while longer for all the juice to strain through.
Pitch the yeast
Boil the apple juice for 30 minutes then allow it to cool. Pitch the yeast into a measuring jug containing fresh, clear apple juice at room temperature. This will allow the dried yeast to rehydrate and kick-start your fermentation. At this point, measure the original gravity (OG) with a hydrometer and write it down. Later, this figure will allow you to estimate your cider’s alcohol percentage. If the OG is low, top the bulk juice up with a little white sugar to reach 1.040. After half an hour, stir the jug to disperse the yeast thoroughly, then pour it into your sterilised carboy or demijohns. Fill these up nearly to the top with apple juice and put on airlocks. Within the hour you should see bubbles coming out through the airlock.
Keep the fermentation vessel(s) in a warm place (like the kitchen) and after 3-4 weeks you should have a crystal-clear cider ready to be racked and bottled. Check it with your hydrometer. The reading needs to be 1.000 or less. If it’s still high, let fermentation continue. When the cider is finished, measure the final gravity and read off the alcohol content from an ABV chart or online calculator. For reasonably good storage, 5% ABV is considered the target minimum.
Bottle your cider. Siphon your cider into recycled, sterilised beer bottles that will take a crown cap. If you want a still-hard cider, just bottle as is. If you want bubbles, then add ½ a teaspoon of white sugar to a pint bottle, fill up with your cider, and cap. After a few more weeks, a renewed fermentation should be complete and you’ll have some fizz. Enjoy your cider. Your cider is drinkable once it has cleared. However, leaving your product to age in a cool garage or shed over the winter will improve it. Ideally, you should aim to be drinking last year’s cider as you’re making this year’s batch. Serve your cider chilled and take care when opening. If you’ve overdone the priming sugar, it can go off like a fire extinguisher. When serving, you can adjust the sweetness to taste by adding sugar cane syrup, but I don’t because I prefer my cider as dry as it can go.