This hard cider is all about the apple and not just any apples but American heirloom apples. Apples that were often used to make hard cider hundreds of years ago. For this cider recipe, I used one of the oldest named American apples, Roxbury Russet, as my main base. It provides a solid level of sugar, nice acid, and tannins. I also included Pumpkin Sweet, which is an American heirloom bittersweet apple. It has reasonable sugar, relatively no acid but lots of tannins. The other apples were also American heirloom apples: American Foxwhelp, Northern Spy, Smokehouse, and Winter Banana. I included the peels from the Winter Banana to add more tannins and phenols. The Winter Banana has nice aromas and great color, which is why I picked those peels.
I used 20 pounds of total apples. This is because to get a full gallon you we need a little extra as you will rack off the juice after letting it settle and clarify with the pectic enzyme. Note, you can ferment the residual juice with the pectin. I often let them ferment with natural/wild yeast. I call these batches the pectin dregs. I usually recover 50-75% of the volume of these but it generally produces a significantly more aggressive fermentation so be careful how full your fermenter is. For the regular juice, you should have a relatively clear juice that should aid in creation of fruitier esters.
I used English Cider Yeast (WLP775) from White Labs for my yeast, which created a dry fruity cider with notes of sweetness. I was really pleased with this yeast. I harvested it and used it for several batches. It had similar characteristics in all the batches. I plated some from different generations and plan to grow a starter from it for next year. This cider has been a hit with several people already. Given its fruity profile, I recommend only aging it for a few months before drinking. I have this hard cider at 2.5 volumes CO2 for carbonation. It’s just enough that it aids the cider but not enough to really notice it. The apple comes through along with some astringency and slight bitterness followed by just a touch of tartness. It’s really quite splendid.
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 and both sulfite and sorbate before packaging if you are back sweetening with fermentable sugars. I just try to avoid additional preservatives if I can. Hard ciders will naturally produce some sulfites as they ferment. Different yeast varieties produce more than others.
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 2.5 volumes, you can add 25 grams of priming sugar per gallon (6.6 grams per liter). This should give you the additional volumes CO2 that you would need to reach 2.5. This assumes you didn’t degas the hard cider, which means you should have around 0.85 volumes of CO2 already suspended in it.
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.
- Yeast Alternatives: Consider using a different yeast. I have been exploring torulaspora delbrueckii, which is a non-saccharomyces genus of yeast. Saccharomyces is the most common yeast genus used for wine and beer. Within this genus, there are a vast number of species, which is how you have yeast that create esters, phenols, or combinations of these sensory components. Torulaspora delbrueckii is a high ester producing yeast, meaning expect more fruity aromas.
- 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.
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