Merrylegs perry cider

Merrylegs perry cider can be brewed very simply in your own kitchen in three to five days depending how strong and sweet you like it; it's as easy as falling out of bed.

Our cider traditionally is made from perry pears; the yeast would be still slightly active, producing carbon-dioxide, so it would be bottled under cork and cage, rather like a champagne. I recommend you don't mess with that; if you get the pressure just slightly wrong, you will have an almighty explosion. Just brew it, and enjoy a few days later. Unlike beer it does not need to mature, though it may improve with time.

Ciders retail for around three pounds per 750ml bottle in England. Today we will make three litres from recycled pears that were being ditched; it's free!

A glass of delicious Merrylegs perry cider.

Ingredients

  • 15 odd pears, washed and halved.
  • A chunk of cinnamon bark, or powder, a chunk of fresh ginger, 2 tsp whole cloves.
  • 1 litre of water
  • 3 TBSP raw honey
  • A tray of ice cubes
  • 1/4 tsp dried yeast

Go for it

  1. Toss the spices, halved pears and a litre of water, but not the honey, into a pressure cooker.
  2. Bring to pressure for 30 minutes.
  3. Squish using a potato masher.
  4. Put the pot into a large container with cold running water; cool as quickly as possible.
  5. Strain through muslin into a five litre bucket with tight fitting lid.
  6. Add the honey.
  7. Add the ice and bring up to about 4 litres.
  8. When below 20C add the dried yeast and seal.
  9. After 24 hours the bucket will start to bulge as fermentation begins; release the pressure periodically.
  10. Slow brewed is best; keep in a cool place.
  11. Bottle into 2 litre plastic cola bottles after three to five days.

Waste not, want not

What is the future of these Perry pears? Should they just go straight to the dump, or is there still some value in them?

Rotting Perry pears.

Using a sharp knife, cut lengthwise through the pear, right through the most rotten part.

Halved rotten Perry pears.

So how much of your Perry pears are rotten? Ten percent, perhaps. Are we going to toss them out just because they have passed their sell-by date? No sirree!

Recycled Perry pears ready for turning into delicious cider.
Straining Perry pears.

After they have come out of the pressure cooker, with about a litre of water, and then cooled, pour the mixture through a fine muslin cloth directly into your five litre bucket. Add two or more tablespoons of raw honey; the more you add, the stronger your cider will be.

Add the ice to get the temperature of the wort down as quickly as possible; that is fundamental to all brewing.

Once the temperature of the wort has dropped to around 20C, add the dried yeast and seal with an air-tight lid.

Unless you release the pressure it will blow off the lid; a fruitfly seen below thought he would take his chances. Neither his merry legs or wings could save him from his unhappy fate. Your cider makes a good nave, but a very bad master; careful or you may suffer the same fate!

This is at the end of day 3. I will bottle tomorrow in two litre coke bottles, and store in the fridge to stop fermentation. Nevertheless I will squeeze the bottles every day just to see how hard they are, and let off some gas if necessary.

Bubbling Merrylegs Perry cider.

Back sweeten

Most of the sugars from both the fruit and the honey will be turned to alcohol, depending on how many days you allow the fermentation to proceed. If it is too dry for your taste, you can back sweeten your merrylegs perry cider without making it any stronger by adding 2 tsp of honey per litre after bottling. Squeeze your plastic bottles to make sure they do not get too hard and burst.

This is not a good idea if you are using glass bottles.

Rapid cooling

I cannot stress too much the importance of rapid cooling of the wort, first while in the pressure cooker under running water, and then by adding ice. It prevents the formation of certain noxious tasting aldehydes.

Disturbing sleep

There is no question of it, alcohol disturbs our sleep, and may even cause insomnia. Personally, two half wine glasses, topped with with chilled water is fine for me.

Two whole glasses of neat cider turns it into Grumpy Nights Perry for me.

In fact, if you suffer from insomnia, cutting back hard on the starches at dinner will make a profound difference; it is one of the great benefits of banting, also known as a ketogenic meal. It has a lot to do with raised blood glucose; a short walk or swim after dinner would also make a difference, turning those sugars into glycogen instead.

Natural honey

This of course points to the fact that there is unnatural honey; that which has been overly strained to remove all the pollen from tens of thousands of flowers, refined and heated.

Look for a small beekeeper who will sell you some natural honey, the darker the better. It contains more phytochemicals and a deeper, richer flavour which is perfect for your Merrylegs perry cider. If you want a brew that will give you a loose tongue and wobbly limbs then add even more, and less water, and brew for longer.

There is no right or wrong; you too must experiment to get the perfect perry.

Keep it simple, Stupid.

You could make a small hole in the lid of the bucket and fit a bubbler with press stick, but really it is not necessary. If you are a serious brewer you could even measure the specific gravity, and only bottle when it is approaching zero.

I do that for my beer, but this Merrylegs perry cider is so foolproof that you really can keep it very simple.

At three days, your perry will be sweeter, but weaker. The longer you leave it, the drier and stronger it gets.

Burst bottles

During the brewing process, the sugars are turned into alcohol, and carbon dioxide is released. Glass bottles can burst and be very dangerous. Generally I avoid plastic, but in this instance, I recommend it; remember to release the gas periodically or you may be cleaning up an awful mess.

I've never tried keeping my merrylegs perry cider for months, so I cannot comment. It is so pleasant immediately that we brew and drink.

August is the season for apples and pears in the Northern Hemisphere; do you have trees, or access to cheap fruit from the farmer? Perfect for apple and Merrylegs perry cider.

Apples and pears for cider.

After five days your brew can get quite strong, and you may have to rename it Mumblehead perry cider! It makes a wonderfully refreshing drink on a hot summer's day.

Pure?

I used to think pure was better; I no longer adhere to that philosophy. The glass of merrylegs cider at the top of the page has been strained through a coffee filter. It looks wonderful, but has lost a lot of the fibre and some nutrients of a full-bodied perry.

Merrylegs perry cider

Merrylegs perry cider is so easy to make in your own home when you have a glut of pears, or even have to buy them.

  1. Bernard Preston
  2. Easy Lunch Recipes
  3. Merrylegs perry cider

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