Johnny Appleseed’s Hard Cider Stimulator
Posted 05 Jun 2012 by Frank Mahon
There was a time in American History when hard cider was a more commonly consumed alcoholic beverage than beer. When the first English settlers came to American they brought with them a taste for cider. Hard cider was consumed not only for its inebriating effects but also as a health tonic. John Adams believed cider was a good cure for flatulence and often drank it with his breakfast. In the 18th century hard cider was often referred to as a “stimulator”. Hard cider continues to be very popular in much of England. Do you remember Johnny Appleseed? Well, the apples he planted were more likely intended for drinking than eating. Today, most Americans are more familiar with the sweet nonalcoholic version of apple cider that pairs so well with ginger snaps and a haunted hayride. Don’t get me wrong I love sweet cider, but if you are curious in finding out why Johnny Appleseed was really planting all those apple trees you have come to the right place.
Making your own hard cider can be a very easy process because, apple cider naturally wants to ferment! Apple skins are covered with natural yeasts just waiting to get at the sugary goodness contained within. Natural apple cider left to sit on its own will ferment without the addition of yeast. Unfortunately, for home brewers most apple cider found in the average grocery store has been pasteurized to kill the natural yeast and increase its shelf life. Without the introduction of yeast pasteurized cider will not reliably ferment into hard cider. Finally, natural fermentation does not always yield consistent results, so many cider makers prefer to add their own yeast.
I have been making natural hard cider for five years and have never made a bad batch. I always use unpasteurized cider, never add additional yeast and have been perfectly happy with my results. Finding unpasteurized cider can be difficult, I live in a rural area so I can usually find it at a local farmers market or sometimes I press it myself. More and more homebrew stores are beginning to carry unpasteurized cider. I usually buy six gallons at time, pour five into a glass carboy and drink one sweet. I cap my carboy with an airlock just like I was making a batch of beer. If left to sit too long sediments called trub will form on the bottom of your carboy. Unchecked, trub can cause off tastes and smells in your cider. Racking is the process of siphoning the liquid cider off of the trub and into a clean carboy. Frequent racking will prevent trub build up and keep your hard cider tasting like apples. I recommend racking your cider every week or two until the cider begins to clear out. I keep my cider in carboys for at least two months. I bottle my cider when its gravity gets to 1.005. I usually keep my cider in carboys until I am ready to drink it, then I simply pour it into a keg and force carbonate it. I have found hard cider to be so easy to make that I usually have a keg of it on tap all of the time.
There you have it, my not so scientific method for making cider “scratchy”. The way I see it, there are plenty of things to get stressed about in this world, and your hobby should not be one of them. So raise a toast to Johnny Appleseed and homemade hard cider stimulators. Next month, I will discuss kegging and force carbonation.