Making Heirloom Cider

Heirloom Cider Label
Heirloom Cider Label

Every season, I seek to try something new. That usually always includes new apple varieties when I can find them. This year I also experimented with yeast and juice clarity. If you will recall from my earlier post on clear or cloudy juice, clearer juices can produce more fruity esters. I incorporated all three new elements in this batch of hard cider. I found some very interesting heirloom varieties and while this recipe is made up of six varieties, the main two were Roxbury Russet and Pumpkin Sweet.

NameBrixSGpHTemp(F)TA (g/l)Tannins
Roxbury Russet16.21.0633.6376.19.25High
Pumpkin Sweet13.41.0524.2975.93.25High
Apple Database

The other trees only had enough apples for a small amount of juice, 15-20 ounces (500 ml). However, this demonstrates the benefits of blending. Adding small amounts of various juice can contribute to the hard cider. I used American Foxwhelp, Smokehouse, Winter Banana, and Northern Spy. These each contributed various elements like aromas, acids, and tannins. I also included the peels from the Winter Banana apples, which is my signature method for adding more tannins and color. I strongly encourage you to include this same trick in this hard cider recipe.

For this batch, I tried White Labs WLP775 English Cider Yeast. I harvested and used this same yeast for multiple batches this year and I was very pleased with the results. Every batch had a good amount of fruity aromas and flavors. I expect my clarified juice helped but I am sure the yeast was the biggest contributing factor on how fruity this cider was. For reference, I delivered a sampling of various ciders from this season to friends for the holidays. I received a text that same night with a picture of the heirloom bottle saying they really liked this one. This is an example of a hard cider that didn’t need a lot of aging, even though it has a decent amount of tannins. I aged it for only a couple months before bottling. It was very well balanced with a good amount of fruity esters that provided elements of sweetness even though the cider was dry. If you can find some Roxbury Russet, use it for a base to create your own Heirloom Cider.

Heirloom Cider: 6 American Heirloom Apples including Roxbury Russet, Pumpkin, Sweet, Smokehouse, and Northern Spy.
Heirloom Cider: 6 American Heirloom Apples including Roxbury Russet, Pumpkin, Sweet, Smokehouse, and Northern Spy.

I made a 3 gallon batch but the recipe sheet is my usual 1 gallon. You can just scale this up as needed. Here are quick links to the Heirloom Cider recipe in my recipes sections as well as the recipe section where you can find inspiration from a multitude of hard ciders recipes.


Here are the latest hard cider recipes from Prickly Apple Cider.

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