This was my first time using ElStar apples for a hard cider. They remind me of several other early tart varieties and you could easily use something similar with mild tannins and good acid. I was thinking they may need a boost to the tannins and I was also thinking I needed to use another one of my Carolina Reaper peppers that I acquired. The result was me mixing hops and peppers for a spicy and earthy flavor profile. It sounded like a great combo to me and I was right. I used Nugget and Mosaic hops, which are more earthy, spicy, and herbal versus some of the citrus varieties and I like that mixture a lot. The ABV was around 6-7% as my apples had a specific gravity of 1.053. The pH of my Elstar apples was 3.9 with a total acid of 9.0g/l (malic). I was surprised that my acid would be that high along with that pH but as I mention in my post on pH and total acid, they don’t correlate well.
Why Carolina Reaper? When I ran across an organic offering, I couldn’t turn it down and incorporated it in this hard cider and my Ruby Reaper cider mistelle. My wife and I have fully embraced peppers and spice into our everyday cooking and this cider is just a natural extension of it. This is another cider that can be enjoyed young though should age out well if you wanted to give it some time. I just enjoy it so much, I can’t see us letting it sit very long. Think bold and spicy food pairing for this one but it would also pair well with a burger topped with and egg, some BBQ sauce, spicy pickles, and some lettuce. I am making myself hungry. I gave it just enough carbonation to notice but not enough to surprise. You really need to give it a try and besides a great flavor, it has a very nice color profile.
As always you can adapt this hard cider recipe to your preferred method. As is my normal, I don’t use sulfites or sorbates in my ciders. If you want to add, you can always add sulfites 24 hours before inoculating with yeast. I took this to dry as my yeast fermented it down to 1.000 but you can always add sulfite and sorbate before packaging if want to back sweeten and prevent fermentation, just remember you need to force carbonate if you do that. I didn’t intend MLF for this cider though you could seek to encourage it if desired.
I also filter my hard ciders but you can simply age them longer, cold crash them, and/or use fining to help clarify your hard ciders. The same is true for carbonation. If you want to bottle condition this cider to 2.75 volumes, you can add 29 grams of priming sugar per gallon (7.7 grams per liter). This should give you the additional volumes CO2 that you would need to reach 2.75. This assumes you didn’t degas the hard cider, which means you should have around 0.85 volumes of CO2 already suspended in it. You could also bottle this still if you don’t want to create sediment.
If you are not using kegs, always remember to limit your oxygen exposure by limiting your headspace when aging. If you are looking for some variations on this recipe, consider the following.
- Fruits: You could easily mimic my Ruby Reaper mistelle by adding the grapefruit.
- Yeast Alternatives: Given the strong flavor profiles in this hard cider, the yeast you use could be flexible. I used the English ale but a Belle Saison or cider yeast could be quite good or give White Lab’s Torulaspora delbrueckii a try.
- Back Sweeten: If you desire a sweeter hard cider, consider adding 40 grams per gallon (10.5 grams per liter) of organic erythritol to the cider before bottling. Erythritol is a non-fermentable sugar alcohol and will increase the sweetness without adding a strong aftertaste.
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