How is apple cider made?

How is apple cider made is a question you will probably only ask if you have several trees in the garden, access to surplus-fruit or perhaps know a greengrocer who is turfing out a box that has seen better days.

You need 3 or 4 apples per litre of cider. The kick will be determined by how long you decide to let it ferment. A hydrometer will give you an accurate measure of the alcohol-content.

Today we are making a light-brew for a hot summer's day, not one that will be the ruin of your character and give you a headache for a week.

Making apple cider in a large pot.

Ingredients for 4 litres of apple cider

Start by making certain you have a couple trays of ice in the freezer, and two wine bottles of cold-water in the fridge. Cooling the hot wort as quickly as possible is very important.

  1. 12 - 20 apples, washed and quartered
  2. 2 oranges, washed and halved
  3. 3 litres of water
  4. 1 litre of ice-cubes
  5. A chunk of freshly-peeled ginger
  6. 1 tsp cloves
  7. A couple chunks of cinnamon
  8. 3 TBSP of raw-honey

You will need a packet of dried-yeast later.

Using a pressure-cooker

  • Boil the fruit, spices and one litre of water in a pressure-cooker for 20 minutes.
  • Place the pressure-cooker in a bucket of cold water, under a running tap.
  • Using a potato-masher, squish the fruit.
  • Cool and then strain through muslin into a 5 litre plastic-bucket; use the cold water to extract more juice from the pulp.
  • Add 1 to 3 tablespoons of raw-honey, depending on how strong you want your cider to be.
  • Add the ice and quickly get the temperature down to around 20-degrees Celsius.
  • Make up to about 4 litres.
  • Add 1/4 tsp of dried-yeast; hydrate it first for twenty minutes.
  • Bottle after about three-days. The longer you leave it, the less sweet but more alcoholic it will be.

I find a pressure-cooker very useful; it saves so much time and electricity.

In a normal pot

If you have organic-apples that you know have not been sprayed then there is no need to peel them; simply quarter the fruit and toss the pieces into a large pot.

These came from the greengrocer, were bruised and I would presume had been sprayed; so I peeled them, sliced off the damaged parts, and upped the number of apples to 20.

  1. Bring the ingredients to the boil and simmer for 2 hours.
  2. Using a potato-masher, squish the fruit and bring back to simmering for another hour.
  3. Cool by placing the pot in running cold-water and then strain into a 5 litre bucket; toss the solids into the compost heap.
  4. Cool as quickly as possible to around 20 degrees using a litre of ice cubes and bottles of of cold water.
  5. When the temperature is in the range 18 - 22 degrees Celsius, add a quarter of a teaspoon of dried yeast. Measure the specific gravity if you really want to know how strong your apple cider will be. If you plan to do this regularly, get a thermometer.
  6. If you have an air lock make a small hole in the lid of the bucket and seal the stem in place with press-stick. It should start to bubble within 24 hours.
  7. You can wait for fermentation to go to completion, no sugars left and the SG will be close to 1.004; bubbling will stop. Or just pour into plastic bottles 2 to 3 days after adding the yeast, refrigerate your apple cider and enjoy.
  8. Bottle in two litre coke bottles, watching to see they do not burst. Test how hard they become. Release the pressure gently by loosening the lid carefully.
  9. Drink within a week.
Apple cider bubbling in a bucket.

How is apple cider made?

How is apple cider made proves it is very simple to ferment badly and still taste reasonable; you can make this into a real hobby perfecting your brewing techniques. It may lead on to new things; it my case to guava honey mead, for example. It's called a melomel.

Like most things making apple cider is an art developed over years if you want a magnificent draft. If you are happy with something less than perfect, then don't fuss too much with the details.

Oxygen is the great enemy; acetobacter will flourish and you will end up with vinegar. Either use a bubbler to seal out the air, or bottle whilst in the active fermentation phase when plenty of CO2 is still being produced.

At the end of the day though, if you plan to do something regularly, you might as well learn to do it properly; that means attention to detail, like cooling the wort as quickly as possible, and adding the yeast at the right temperature. You will be happier with the result.

If you can get wine yeast so much the better.

I regularly make a honey brown beer; we avoid using sugar as far as possible. It is called a braggart. I will be experimenting with how apple cider is made to see if I can improve on the usual methods making it into a yet more healthful drink.

Sugar is the great enemy; it comes as no surprise that those with raised blood glucose are the ones being targeted during the pandemic.

Fresh spices

Whatever you do, avoid ground spices as far as you are able. Certainly buy small quantities, keep them in the fridge, and use as quickly as possible.

This week I ran out of fresh ginger, and used powdered; the apple cider we made was perfectly ghastly. Four litres went down the drain.

Covid-19

Probably the greatest risk factor to reacting very badly to the coronavirus is obesity. Frank and pre-diabetics need to take great care to drastically reduce all refined carbohydrates, especially at this time; make your apple cider without the sugar, and accept that it will be rather more tart and less alcoholic.

Interestingly natural honey has a low glycemic-index but once the commercial bottlers get hold of it everything changes[2].

Beer makes a good servant

Beer makes a very good servant but a very bad master; and likewise with all alcoholic beverages.


“Ultimately the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself.” 

Elie Wiesel


Danger

Bottling beverages like cider and beer in glass containers before you are absolutely certain that fermentation has stopped is highly dangerous; they can explode and seriously injure anybody nearby.

You absolutely must use a hydrometer before bottling in glass. The big plus then is that it will last a good deal longer than a week; in fact it will improve.

Read this page on beer hydrometer readings if you plan to use glass bottles.

That is how apple cider is made. It is simple, not so? And very delicious, inexpensive and you can be assured no noxious chemicals have been added. Avoiding all food with preservatives and flavour-enhancers is our goal.

For the future

I confess to being a restless spirit always wanting to be creative, let go of old certainties and perhaps discover something sublime; and new to me. If anything my apple cider lacks it is that sense of sharpness that we love in a good wine.

It may not be achievable in a drink that you make and consume within a few days.

For the future I am going to try adding a little lemon or lime.

A huge stride forward in the making of jams and jellies was the good wife's discovery how much a little lemon juice, giving a slight tartness, adds to the gastronomic delight.


"Every day is an awakening, you will never grow old.
You will just keep growing."

- Gail Sheehy


Probiotic

Learning how apple cider is made is another good way to prepare your own probiotics; it is full of friendly yeast cells. Researchers point out that it is not only the number of bugs in our gut that is important, but also the diversity.

Ancient cultures brewed their own beers and ciders, and fermented many vegetables; and curdled milk. These are all natural probiotics. They are intimately connected with wellness.

How to make kefir may be the next step; it is to my mind the easiest of the probiotics to prepare in your kitchen, containing over 30 different friendly bugs. It cured my stomach ulcer[1]; in just one week.

It's all about the happy tum.

Sleep

There is no question about it; alcohol disturbs sleep. Whilst it is a sedative and will help us nod off, we also are far more likely to find ourselves wide-eyed and bushy tailed at some ungodly hour. Your apple cider, should you imbibe too much, breaks into the deeply restorative REM part that profoundly affects health for the better.

Now that you know how apple cider is made, stick to one glass and have at least one alcohol-free day every week; a good serf but a very bad master.

  1. Probiotics and a helicobacter infection
  2. Glycaemic properties of some German honey varieties

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