by The Beverage People
Learn how to make Apple Cider in the New World style from start to finish. Homemade apple cider is a great way to enjoy the bounty of the harvest!
Pick up any commercial cider at any local grocery store and you most likely bought what is known as New World cider. In fact, New World ciders are probably what you think of when you think of cider. They are generally carbonated, sometimes almost champagne-like. They are fruity and aromatic. They have noticeable acidity and are moderately alcoholic between 5 and 8% ABV. Often, New World ciders are sweet to taste. When you make your own homemade apple cider, you can choose to backsweeten or not to suite your own tastes.
New World ciders are made with culinary apples that have low tannin levels. The lack of tannins results in ciders that are lighter in body and mouthfeel. Low tannins also mean they lack bitterness. The practice of controlled and clean yeast fermentations, and avoidance of bacterial or wild fermentations, leads to retaining more of their fruit character. Sometimes small amounts of crab apples are added for some acid and tannin contribution. Higher levels of acidity make the ciders refreshing without being puckering.
Some options to consider.
If you are making your cider from purchased juice, or are using your own apples, you are limited to the apple varieties you have. However, if you have options, you may eventually wish to experiment with varieties to create your own flavor profile.
Some apples are relatively "neutral" in character. Red Delicious comes immediately to mind, but this class of apples would include such varieties as Baldwin, Cortland, Rome Beauty, and York Imperial. Use 30-50% neutral apples in your blend.
"Tart" apples should comprise 20-40% of your blend. These are apples like Granny Smith, Jonathan, Northern Spy, Rhode Island Greening, Wealthy, and Winesap.
"Aromatic" varieties, such as Gravenstein, MacIntosh, Pippin, and Roxbury Russet, should comprise 10-20% of the total.
An option, should you have them available, would be to include 5 or10% Crabapples in the mix.
After you've tasted your first blended cider, you can make adjustments. If your first effort is harsh, sweeten and stabilize at bottling time, and reduce the percentage of tart apples in the next batch, so the total acid reading will be lower.
If you first cider tastes flat, add a teaspoon of Tannin per five gallons. You can also raise the total acidity, as needed, with a small amount of Tartaric Acid. In this case, you may wish to reduce the percentage of neutral apples in subsequent batches.
You may add other fruit or juices to enhance these beverages. For example, a percentage of cherry, blackberry, or raspberry juice can make for interesting variations on the theme.
Spices can be employed as well. Ginger, cinnamon, and cloves, are obvious possiblities (either separately or in combination). Boil a small amount of your chosen spice in a cup or so of water for 10 or 15 minutes. Before spicing up the entire batch, test out your idea by adding drops of the spice tea to a few ounces of cider. Add to taste.
To raise the alcohol of the cider, add sugar prior to fermentation, to raise the sugar content to 17-18%, a customary level for traditional New England Ciders. Small amounts of brown sugar or molasses may be used for part of the sugar.
You may make a sparkling cider by adding 6-8 oz. of sugar to 5 gallons of cider and bottling in crown-cappable beer or champagne bottles. Store at room temperature for 2 weeks before refrigerating and opening a bottle. This will allow time for the yeast to consume the added sugar and carbonate the cider. If not fully carbonated after 2 weeks, wait a week and test again. Note: Do not use Potassium Sorbate if making sparkling cider or it won't sparkle!
Using Honey to increase the strength of your cider will transform it into a mead known as "Cyser."
Some ciders may benefit from a modest period of aging in oak. This is more likely to be true of dry ciders than sweet ones. Oak cubes, sticks or liquid oak essences, may also be used for this purpose.
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