My Vinegar & Hard Cider Experiment

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.

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


James said...

Wow am I impressed. I think you should perfect the craft and write a book on hard cider brewing. I would buy one. (-:

As far as your latent belief, I think a detailed Bible Study would make that as clear as that good hard cider. Just remember that if you can't thank God for it, and do so without slurred speech, it isn't a blessing.

Jim Curley said...

Christ turned water into wine at the wedding feast. It doesn't say if He partook or not, but He wouldn't have done it if He disapproved of alcohol per se. Of course drunkeness is a different story...

JFC said...

As far as latent beliefs, I think you should deal with that issue once and for all. And a good Bible study to help deal with it is Ken Gentry's book "God Gave Wine." I am a recovering tee-totaler myself (not one drop of alcohol my first 42+ years), and my taste buds are still mostly tee-totaler, but I have aspirations for sanctification as regards enjoying the things that God says are good. (Funny thing, the sermon at church yesterday was on John 2:1-12, where Jesus make 180 gallons of wine for the party.)

Now that I've given a lecture, or a testimony, or whatever ...

Let me ask a question: What method of me purchasing your books is most helpful to you? I assume NOT Amazon ... but is it to buy directly from you (do you still do that), or through Rick, or some other way? What is most helpful to YOU?

Emily said...

Hm, I'm more interested in the vinegar than the cider. Alcoholic beverages make me too sleepy! I have heard remarkable things about the medicinal properties of raw apple cider vinegar, however, and as we plan on planting some apple trees, I'd like to give it a go. Keep us posted!

Herrick Kimball said...

Hey everyone,

I appreciate your encouragement to take up drinking. ;-)

I've thought about getting Ken Gentry's book. I take it that he does not say that "wine" in those days was different from wine these days, as many of my Baptist bretheren believe. I've been told that the wine Jesus made was like grape juice.

I've never been drunk. But I went to a secular college and I've seen enough drunkeness (and the sad results of drunkenness) to know I haven't missed anything.

I'll actually take grape juice over wine any day. We canned several quarts of homegrown grape juice last fall and it is good.

But hard cider is different. It is definately better than wine.

I'm thinking that maybe homemade alcoholic beverages are okay. And it has occurred to me that the homemade stuff might have "live active cultures" which are downright good for a body.

The thing that concerns me is my boys. They sure were interested in the hard cider. They wanted more than a sip. That kind of scares me.

Emily... I'll keep you posted on the cider vinegar.

Herrick Kimball said...


I would encourage everyone to purchase my books from Rick Saenz at Cumberland Books. (

That said, they are also available directly from me. I have an e-mail with information that I send out to people who contact me about the books. ( And my humble web page has information too:

Thanks for asking!

James said...

Jumping back in on the encouragement. My boys are the same way with my beer, and it gives me many opportunities to teach the whole biblical counsel on alcohol. In homes where alcohol is avoided completely, or abused, that sort of balanced teaching does not take place, and most abusers come out of those extremes. You've already cracked the window on their curiosity, so consider how important your godly example of gratitude and moderation would be in forming their attitudes.

And am I glad you are back to blogging.

Alyssa Kizer said...

Hallo, Mr. Kimball,

I hope you will forgive a lurker (and appreciative reader) for inserting her two pence. I just wanted to point out the passage in 1 Timothy 5:23 where Paul urges Timothy to "take a little wine for thy stomach's sake". Wine is actually quite good for you in moderate amounts. It has a lot of antioxidants, is supposedly good for your heart, and also aids in the digestion. Other verses in the Bible that speak of wine generally do not say aught about whether or not it is good to drink wine, but rather simply warns us not to drink overmuch.
Unfortunately, Scripture says nothing about beer or hard cider, so I can't give specifics for that. :-D In any case, like celibacy or vegetarianism, abstinence from alcohol may depend largely on one's individual calling and/or preferences.

I truly enjoy reading the thoughts and stories you put up here. Thank you for sharing them.

Missouri Rev said...

This leads to another issue: The Lord's Table. The idea that wine was different (non-alcoholic) in Christ's day is clearly refuted in 1 Corinthians 11:21 where Paul is rebuking the Corinthian church for how it regards the Lord’s Table, For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. There were some getting drunk from the wine of the table. The problem is not alcohol, as it is not capable of sinning in and of itself, but how it is used by the one that drinks it. The same could be said for food, wherein some people overeat in gluttony. Their gluttony was not a result of the food, but a result of their overeating. Should food be avoided because some abuse it? Another example is where antigun newspapers publish headlines that state that a “gunman” killed someone. In my life I have never seen a gun with legs running around killing people. No, it was a person using the gun unlawfully that was the problem, not the gun.

That said, if our own conscience bothers us regarding the consumption of alcohol, by all means do not violate it, but we must be sure at the same time that our conscience is operating by the correct standard,, and not by a manmade legalism or misinterpretation of the Scripture. The correct standard is the whole of God’s Law-word, which I believe makes clear that alcohol is permitted so long as one does overuse it and, just as important, does not cause another to stumble. It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.

Having undergone extensive training as a DUI officer and spent 15 months doing special DUI enforcement (many years ago when I was an officer), I can verify that it is true that children grow up to abuse alcohol nearly always do so because they either grew up in families that made it a “real evil and taboo” or because their families or peers abused it. They never witnessed a lawful, biblically restrained use of it.

Though I do not condemn them in their use of it and consider them fellow members of the body of Christ, I also believe that churches that use grape juice in their communion in their efforts to be obedient to God and avoid the appearance of evil, nonetheless, bear false witness against Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to govern the Lord’s people in a lawful use of wine. In order to make Jesus fit their standards of holiness and not appear evil, they have to make wine into grape juice, which is a form of legalism. Their ideas of holiness cannot bear the thought that Jesus drank real wine. It is the power of the Holy Spirit in is that causes us to live holy lives, not the abstention of various things which perish with the using.

Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. Colossians 2:20-23

Alyssa Kizer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alyssa Kizer said...

*nods agreement* That, and the ancient world would not have drunk grape juice any more than they drank milk. They considered it the raw product - still do, in fact - and the idea of imbibing it would have been (and still is) weird, and even a little barbaric, to them.

Herrick Kimball said...

Thank you everyone for your feedback on this post. You have provided me with a lot of food for thought.

I think I shall proceed with my intention to make at least a 5-gallon batch of hard cider this next fall. And I'll be sure to let you know about it here.

Unknown said...

My only problem now is reconciling this sort of thing with my latent belief that Christians should not drink alcohol.

I'm a bit pissed you decided to drag out Christianity as a crutch to defend your beliefs in not drinking alcohol.

Can you do me a favor and consider what I'm saying? There are too many people in this world who rationalize killing, sexism, genocide, etc... because of religion.

Please take this quote to mind:

"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." - Galileo Galilei

Anonymous said...

Sometimes God tells one person to avoid something that he doesn't tell another to avoid (I believe that's the gist of Romans 14). Maybe its because a particular person couldn't handle the temptation. Maybe its because that person's neighbor, friend, or child would see it and get the wrong idea. I can only guess at what God's thinking, he certainly doesn't consult me about it, lol.

But, if you like making hard cider, and still don't want the alcohol, just simmer it before drinking. If you like, you can even use a thermometer to tell when all the alcohol has evaporated, as it boils at a lower temperature than water. When it reaches the boiling point of water (100C or 212F), you'll know its alcohol-free.


tc said...

A book that I found helpful in informing my conscience was "Drinking with Calvin and Luther" by Jim West.


John said...

You're definitely ready to make the move to an airlock. You don't want to fool around with loosening some cap- sooner or later you'll get a bottle bomb, and, trust me, you don't want that. At the least, it's messy, and at worst it's positively dangerous. Airlocks & stoppers are dirt cheap at such places as Midwest Supplies or Northern Brewer.

As for the religious proscriptions against drinking, well, people can find a rationale in Scripture for doing about anything they want, or don't want to do. As for drinking alcohol, my favorite comment is probably W.C. Fields': "We were lost in the desert for months without a corkscrew, and had to subsist on nothing but food and water."

My own approach may be typified by paraphrasing Mark Twain: "I don't drink alcohol as a rule; as a habit, but not as a rule."