Last fall I blogged here about the first time I made apple cider. It was in 1977 when I was a student at the Sterling School in Vermont. My buddy, Ed got the idea that we could make some hard cider by corking it into recycled Coca-Cola bottles and waiting for it to go hard. It didn’t work. The corks popped and the bottles fizzed over.
Then I told you about how, last fall, my family made our own apple cider and we froze some. That did work. We have been enjoying that frozen cider for the past few months. I only wish we had frozen a couple hundred gallons! It’s awesome good.
But I didn’t freeze all the cider we made. I took two gallons and put them into wide mouth gallon jars with cheesecloth over the tops. The gallons have been sitting on a shelf in our back room. I’m hoping they’ll turn into vinegar.
I have a homesteading friend who makes his own apple cider vinegar in a big crock with cheesecloth over it. He gave me some once and it was very good. It’s far better for you than storebought cider vinegar because it has the “mother” in it. “Mother” is a “live active culture.” Our bodies need good live active cultures to populate our intestines and keep us healthy.
My friend says that if I just let it set long enough, the cider will turn to vinegar. He tells me it once took 10 months for a crock of his to turn to vinegar. Right now, after a bit more than 2 months, a lot of sediment has settled onto the bottom of the jar and a skin has formed on the top. I guess that’s what it’s supposed to do. I asked my vinegar-making friend how I’ll know when it’s ready. He said I have to taste it. This stuff has been sitting on a shelf, open to the air for months and I’m supposed to taste it? I’ll give it a little longer. :-)
With one other gallon of last fall’s cider I decided to try making hard cider again. I just put the cider in a gallon glass jug with a twist cap and set it on the kitchen counter. Every so often I’d crack the lid to let any built-up air escape. It took awhile but air eventually formed in the jar. At one point, I was cracking the lid and releasing the pressure twice a day. The jar would be still but when I cracked the lid, bazillions of micro-bubbles churned up from the 1/2” of sediment on the bottom. It was truly amazing to watch.
Bubble activity slowed and I have not been letting air out very often. The liquid in the jar has clarified. It is a pleasant golden amber color. A couple weeks ago I said to Marlene that I thought it was probably ready. We decided to give it a try.
The only problem was, I knew that when I cracked the lid, the bubbles would roil up from the bottom and all the crud that had settled down would become mixed into the clear top fluid. So I decided to open it quick and suck out a sample with a turkey baster. I managed to get a small sample and we gave it a taste test. It was remarkably good. I’ve tasted alcoholic beverages in the past but I’ve never been a drinker so I’m not an expert at all when it comes to alcoholic beverages— but it tasted like a cross between beer and champaign.
Well, that was a couple weeks ago and the jug has since settled down again so that the top cider was nice and clear again. I decided to try pouring some of the good stuff off the top before the bubbles erupted and stirred up the bottom crud. Marlene held a glass over the sink while I quickly screwed the cap off and poured out about half a cup.
It was even better than two weeks ago. It smelled more like beer this time. I think it tasted like beer too— sort of. It was very smooth. It was really quite delightful. I liked it.
My casual countertop experiment making cider homebrew has inspired me. I’m thinking that I’m going to have to get an air lock and a 5-gallon glass jug and read up on this craft of making hard cider. It seems easy enough to me.
My only problem now is reconciling this sort of thing with my latent belief that Christians should not drink alcohol.
UPDATED INFORMATION....March 2009
Since this essay was first published, I have developed a "Whizbang" cider press and apple grinder. You can learn about these simple, effective, homemade tools, and my new book, Anyone Can Build A Whizbang Apple Grinder And Cider Press by going to my new Whizbang Cider web site. Here's the link: www.Whizbang Cider.com
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