All it takes is one bad apple
It was a lot easier than making wine. And yet, so much more work than I anticipated. For one, it is difficult to find detailed information on cider-making. Sure there’s the Intarweb, but the info is suprisingly scarce, nearly always tacked on as an appendix to beer-brewing how-to’s. For another, virtually no cider recipe begins with actual apples which I suppose follows from the first point. I mean, how many beer brewing recipes instruct you on how to harvest your own barley and hops? (This is the biggest difference with amateur winemaking. People love starting with actual grapes.)
So we had all these apples. And they’re something like 93% liquid. But getting all that juice out is nearly impossible without a good masher and press. We had neither. So we sliced up all the Empire apples (which by sheer luck turned out to be good for cider-makin’) with one of them corer doodads. It was handy for sure, but every slice tossed up a reverse shower of apple juice into my face. By the end my face had hardened into a sweet citrus-encrusted mask.
The goal is mash up the apples enough so that squeezing the juice from them is easier than trying to squeeze a whole apple. (This is why apples are called a hard fruit. Yes, just got that.) We had a grape crusher from our stint as home vintners ten years ago which we thought would work perfectly. It did not work perfectly. Indeed, it did not work at all. The few slices that did get mulched in the gears merely created a slurry coating that prevented other slices from entering. So we abandoned that idea.
Ultimately we put the slices into a food processor with the grater blade in. This worked wonderfully, though it kinda technologized the romance out of the process. Just for a bit, though. The real manual labor commenced when we had to hand-wring the mashed apples through cheese-cloth to get the juice out. My kingdom for a fruit press! Imagine wringing several hundred delicate washclothes out. Our hand muscles were basically useless when it was all done.
Now, there’s only so much juice you can extract without the using of a simple machine. I tried to fashion a crude press from a cutting board and a pan. This failed miserably too. So we had no second run. Ultimately we had to add some fresh apple cider from local orchards to top off the carboy. Then we just added some yeast and sugar. It is cloudy but certainly looks like apple cider. In a few weeks we’ll apparently have hard cider.
At one point in this process my wife asked nonchalantly “Is there any possibility that this will kill us when we drink it?” I answered no of course. Potentially lethal apple-based liquor awaits the next step: applejackification. But that’s another post.
Full photo gallery here. Bottoms up.