Sparkling Hard Cider
Apples have always been my favorite fruit – they’re versatile for sweet and savory cooking, they last for months, and they make delicious juice (that makes delicious hard cider). One of the only disappointments I’ve had with my New Orleans garden is that I cannot grow an apple tree in it. Apple trees like a less-humid environment and need a colder winter for enough chilling hours to set fruit than our New Orleans winters provide.
At this time of year, apples are available at our local farmer’s markets that come from relatively nearby in Mississippi. I usually buy a few the first week they’re available, but by the next week, because I am an apple-crazed lady, I can’t resist the thought of juicing a whole bunch of them to make my own hard apple cider, and I end up walking away with a huge, 20 lb box of apples.
Which means that I have to juice them in my ancient, mini juicer that a friend bought at some garage sale. Juicing apples in it is an incredibly tedious process that I’m sure any sane person would forgo: I have to chop the apples, feed them into the juicer, and just when the juice really starts flowing, I have to stop, dismember the juicer, clean the filter and begin the process again. I usually end up with a little juice and a huge mess.
In the interest of remaining a sane person, I sometimes take a simpler approach and buy a gallon of apple juice to make cider. That way, I am rewarded a month later with a delicious, sparkling, mildly alcoholic beverage that doesn’t require hosing down the back porch after making.
You will need:
• 1 gallon apple cider that comes in a glass jug and does NOT include sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate in the ingredients list (these will inhibit or kill the yeast and therefore not give you the desired outcome—alcohol!)
• 1 packet champagne yeast (available from Brewstock, 3800 Dryades St.)
• 1 rubber stopper with hole in the center that fits apple juice jug (Brewstock)
• one airlock that fits into the rubber stopper (from Brewstock)
• 4 re-sealable 750ml bottles (I reuse lemonade bottles that have the attached flip top with rubber seal)
• rubber tubing for siphoning (also available from Brewstock)
Step 1: Open the lid on the gallon jug of cider and pitch the yeast in; shake slightly so yeast doesn’t get stuck in the neck.
Step 2: Seal with rubber stopper and airlock; fill airlock with water up to the line on side. This prevents outside air from getting into your brew and spoiling it, but lets the CO2 out from the fermentation process.
Step 3: By the next day, bubbles should be working their way through the water in the airlock. Let sit undisturbed until the bubbling subsides, which may take up to two weeks.
Step 4: Once the bubbling has stopped, it’s time to bottle the cider, which means all bottles and the tubing need to be sterilized. Submerge the bottles and tubing in vigorously boiling water for 10 minutes.
Step 5: Once sterilized, put one end of the tubing into the gallon jug with the cider, and hold the other end near the bottles you want the fluid going into. Suck on end of the tubing to create a vacuum.
Step 6: When the amber-colored liquid starts zooming down the tube toward, put the end of the tube into a bottle and fill up to the base of the neck with liquid, until each bottle is full to the neck. Try to avoid the sludgy residue on the bottom of the glass jug—it will cloud your bottles and can leave a bad taste in the finished product.
Step 7: If you want sparkling cider, add 1 teaspoon sugar to each bottle, sealing, then gently shaking when finished. If you prefer hard cider with out the fizz, avoid extra sugar (the yeast will feed on the added sugar, but inside the bottle, the gases have no way to escape, creating carbonation).
Step 8: Label and date each bottle (nothing fancy, just something so that you know when it’s ready to taste) and let sit for one month in a dark place.
Step 9: In one month (no one has to know if you can’t wait that long), serve over ice and enjoy!