Posted: November 22nd, 2008 | Author: Stacy | Filed under: Cider, Homebrew, Stout | 2 Comments »
The Wonderful World of Apples
I was in luck this morning – the Braeburn cider people were there! Pre-fermentation, the Braeburn cider is crisp and tart and delicious to drink. This will be my first single-variety cider, as all previous batches were from a hodge podge of apple varieties. It’ll be interesting to see what the difference is between this cider and the one I’ve got conditioning in bottles right now. I’ve also made this one sulfite-free, and used local honey and cider yeast. I expect that it’ll be semi-dry and very appley.
And since I’m making cider, that means I have to drink some of last fall’s cider. This was made with previously frozen gallons of unpasteurized local apple cider, campden tablets, and cider yeast. Initially, it was very sweet. Then it became unbelievably carbonated and gushed out of the bottle. Now that it’s a year old, the carbonation has calmed down and the sweetness has reduced. It’s more of a semi-dry cider now.
Irish Stout with a local twist
Each year, I make a batch of Irish Stout for my friend’s St. Patrick’s Day party, which means I barely get any of the stout myself because all the party people drink it up. So I got wise and I’m making myself an early batch. I’m using the Toad Spit Stout recipe like last time, but I’m using Chinook and Willammette hops. I’ve also replaced the crystal malt with a rye crystal malt, and added organic roasted barley.
The best part is that I think I just unearthed a bottle of last year’s stout, so I’ll be able to compare the differences!
Posted: October 12th, 2008 | Author: Stacy | Filed under: Brown, Cider, Homebrew | 3 Comments »
‘Tis the season for making awesome hard cider! I bought 5 gallons of fresh cider from our local Apple Festival and 3lbs of honey from some nice folks at the Farmer’s Market. Just add yeast and soon I’ll have tasty cider. I’ve opted for a champagne yeast and wildflower honey (a nice savory amber) this time, hoping it’ll come out tart and dry. Even the garage is the perfect temperature for cellaring it during fermentation — it just hit 55 degrees and will likely hold that through November. I omit campden tablets from my cider because sulfites give Kathy a headache, and it’s nice to have a gluten-free and sulfite-free offering for guests.
I also determined last week that there aren’t enough brown ales on the market, which means it’s time to make more of my own. I’m trying a new recipe from Charlie Papazian’s Microbrewed Adventures for Puritanical Nut Brown Ale. It promises to be carmely and smooth, with a nutlike flavor, roasted chocolate maltiness, and soft mouthfeel. Sounds good to me! Next month I’ll know if it turns out as advertised.
And of course, that blackberry mead is still going strong…
Posted: February 24th, 2008 | Author: Stacy | Filed under: Beer Reviews, Cider, Gluten-free, What's that in your fridge? | 2 Comments »
Blue Mountain Cranberry Cider
I already knew I loved Blue Mountain ciders
, so buying their cranberry cider when it was on sale at Belmont Station was a no-brainer.
What a gorgeous ruby red color! It’s so perfect and clear, juicy and gem-toned. I can see why hummingbirds are drawn to red nectar-bearing flowers. Just the color alone begs, “drink me NOW!”
And what a lovely tart, refreshing drink it is! I’d imagine that they use fairly sweet apples to offset the tartness of the cranberries. The bottle states that it’s their Walla Walla 5 apple blend, with a splash of cranberry. The aroma is very clearly of apple, but the tang on the tongue and in the back of my mouth is definitely all cranberry.
This would make a great wine replacement at Thanksgiving, or Christmas. Or most of the time, really. It’s tart enough that you don’t want to guzzle it, but has such a nice light honey aroma and flavor that you just can’t stop drinking it.
I’ll definitely buy this again, especially if it’s on sale. I love buying local ciders made from local apples! It’s the best thing next to having my own cider, and I think I might try a cranberry cider blend next fall.
Posted: February 22nd, 2008 | Author: Stacy | Filed under: Cider, Gluten-free, Homebrew | No Comments »
Cider is ridiculously easy to make. I’m not sure why it took me until this year to bother, but I’ve now made two batches of it and I know I’ll make more next fall.
Hard cider is made of:
- Apple cider (or pear cider, or apple/fruit you like cider)
- Honey (2lbs of it)
- 2 Campden Tablets (sulfites that kill bad bacteria that turn cider in to vinegar — optional if you’re feeling brave)
And that’s all! So easy. I haven’t made it from commercial ciders at all, preferring to buy cider from the local farmer’s market, but I bet you could do that in a pinch. Do the math on how much 5 gallons will cost versus buying six pack after six pack of commercial hard cider. If the average six pack costs $6.99, and you can get roughly 8 six packs from 5 gallons of cider, then the cost of commercial cider is about $56. Compare that to making your own, where 5 gallons of locally-grown and pressed cider will likely run you about $30, plus maybe $8 for the yeast, and assuming you’re using bottles you already had — you can see the savings. Plus it tastes better! And it’s easy to make!
Making the cider
- You take 1 gallon of your cider and heat it in a pot with the 2lbs of honey to melt the honey.
- Remove 1 pint of the honey/cider mixture and store it for bottling (I freeze mine).
- Pour 4 gallons of cider into your sanitized carboy, add the remaining honey/cider mix, and check the temperature. It needs to be at around 68 degrees before you can pitch (aka “pour in”) the yeast.
- Once it’s 68, crush the Campden Tablets (if using) with a mortar and pestle, pour that into the carboy, pitch your yeast, put on the fermentation lock, and wait for it to start fermenting — around 24 hours.
- After fermentation is solidly underway (like on day 2), put the cider out in a cool garage or cellar where it can stay at 50-60 degrees.
- When it’s time to bottle the cider, pour it into your bottling bucket along with the reserved pint of honey/cider mix. This will activate the remaining yeast so the cider carbonates in the bottle.
- Let the cider condition in the bottle for a couple of weeks, or until the cider clears and is no longer cloudy.
The key to cider is a low fermentation temperature, just like making a lager beer. You want to ferment your cider at 50-60 degrees, so it’s best suited for winter when you can put it in a cold garage for a few weeks/months. Bottle it when there’s no fermentation activity at all — the fermentation lock doesn’t bubble so much and there’s no active yeast on the top of the cider. Fermentation really can take months with cider, so be patient!
Try different types of cider to see how they turn out. My first batch was made with a tart, crisp apple cider that was flash-pasteurized. I opted not to use campden tablets in the interest of making a sulfite-free cider that doesn’t induce headaches for some folks. And I used a dry cider yeast. The result was a very tart, dry cider that was similar to a geuze beer in nature — crisp, tangy, champagne-like. With this one, I left the cider fermenting indoor for several days, which was probably not the best thing to do. It finished fermenting in about three weeks.
My second cider was made from an unpasteurized mix of apples, so I did add 2 Campden Tablets just to be safe. For this one, I used a sweet mead yeast, hoping for a sweeter cider. It worked! That cider is mild, lightly crisp, refreshing, and sweet like a Braeburn apple. Kathy reports that it gives her a tiny headache due to the Campden Tablets, so that’s the only drawback. This cider fermented in my cold garage for over a month before I bottled it.
Cider, like beer, is light-reactive which means the flavor can be ruined when it sits in the light for a long time. Your cider will just go bad. Be sure to wrap it in a towel or blanket if you’re leaving it someplace that gets daylight (even indirect daylight).
Really, making cider is like cheating it’s so simple! Not only is it naturally gluten-free, you can also make it sulfite free, and it’s delicious. We’re going to have it as a beer alternative at our wedding!
Posted: February 18th, 2008 | Author: Stacy | Filed under: Beer Reviews, Cider, Gluten-free, What's that in your fridge? | No Comments »
Kathy bought this at Trader Joe’s the other day because we’ve not seen granny smith cider for sale before. It seems to be a TJ’s brand, based on my brief Google research. Sadly, no images to be had!
It comes in a green bottle (of course!) with a screw-off cap. On first opening it smells strongly of a green apple Jolly Rancher. Thank goodness it doesn’t exactly tase like one! It’s definitely tart, but not at all dry, with an assertive apple flavor. The sulfite levels seem pretty low since I didn’t even get a stuffy nose from drinking it. It’s not overly sweet or carbonated and does come off as being more of a tasty soda than a cider. Think alcoholic Izze.
The checker at the store was surprised that it was alcohol when we bought it, since the label makes it look like a fun soda and has nutritional information on it. 160 calories of reasonably refreshing cidery goodness!
All in all, it’s not that bad. And if it’s at TJ’s low $4.99/6-pack price I’d probably buy it again for hot summer days.