I love making hard cider, ever since I was a kid whenever we would make fresh cider, I always like to leave mine out on the counter for about a week or so to let it get fizzy (Meagan calls it fuzzy!). In the last three years I have gotten a fair bit more serious about my hard cider.
A bit of history about hard cider. Hard cider has been around for quite a few centuries, if you had been around in the 1600’s – 1700’s in early America you certainly would have been drinking hard cider, in fact John Adams, the second president of the US was known for having a mug of hard cider for breakfast to soothe his stomach. Also the legendary Johnny Appleseed and the trees he planted were used in hard cider production. In the early years of the US, almost every plantation would have their own orchard that was dedicated to growing apples to be used for making hard cider.
If you are interested in more of the history of hard cider in the US, check out http://www.essortment.com/all/hardapplecider_rxvs.htm
Hard cider is a very simple drink to make, basically get some fresh cider from the kid selling along the road in the fall, put it in a container with an airlock and let it sit for a month, and enjoy! That is how I started, but I quickly learned that it didn’t taste all that good. I started looking up how other people make it and found there is a pretty wide range of hard cider drinks that can be made, the recipes and methods can be as simple as the one I just shared, up to complex ones that will yield drinks that are as potent as whiskey!
For my purposes I didn’t have any interest in the alcohol content and since I am into the whole wild edibles and wilderness survival thing, I really wanted to replicate a cider that would have been made in early America (and most likely the same that was made a millennium ago). I have come to find out that making cider using the older methods is more of an art than a science. Any commercial hard cider you will find will start out by pasteurizing their cider and using very specific strains of yeast to yield the exact taste they are looking for. With my process, I rely on the natural yeast that is present in the skins of the apple and because of this, every batch of hard cider turns out differently (or even goes bad if the bacteria balance is incorrect).
I am coming to learn the importance of the temperature the cider is at while it is brewing, how transferring the cider from bottle to bottle during the process (to get rid of the dead yeast that sinks to the bottom) is of utmost importance, and I am now experimenting with infusing the cider with other things such as vanilla beans or Cinnamon sticks. While my first attempts at making cider were not something that you would want to try, my more recent attempts have been quite tasty.
I don’t think I will ever have a final “This is how you do it” guide to making hard cider, as I think I will continually improve on my process, but please check out a new page I have on the main site here where I have much more details on my actual process of making hard cider.