Post title with apologies to the guys from Food Jammers.
In February, when KEL hit a milestone birthday, she rounded up friends and family and asked them to give her challenges that she would have to achieve in the subsequent year. You can read the blog chronicling the challenges here.
My challenge to her was to brew her dream beer. At the time I was about 1 1/2 months into my own brewing odyssey, and excited about the complex process of putting flavours together to come up with something wonderful. It was a challenge and really satisfying. It still is.
Now, KEL likes beer, she has a sweet tooth so the sweeter beers–Barley Wines, sweet stouts, porters–have been her staples. However, she really likes hard cider; ironically, she likes the tart ones, like those you get in the UK, and not so often here in Canada.
Cider is not as much of a challenge, so far as ingredients go, and the process is pretty simple (no boiling for an hour, no steeping of grains, etc). However, cider takes longer, and the outcomes are harder to gauge at the start. So with my help (because I’ve got the equipment and the sanitation know-how) she brewed her first cider a few weeks ago.
The process was fairly straightforward. I picked up three gallons of cider from our local market guy Jim (KEL had to work on market day). I added a crushed Campden tablet into each gallon, and let it numb the natural yeast and kill the bacteria. KEL came over the next day. We heated the cider to below boiling (boiling it would have gelatinized the pectins) and let it sit for a few minutes at a sterilization temp of over 170F. We added Irish Moss to try to clear some of the thicker bits in the beer, and yeast nutrient just in case the Campden Tabs were not wholly depleted–neither is necessary, and the Irish Moss might not even be effective, but I figured what the heck. Then we cooled it, strained it into the carboy, blumed the yeast for about 15 minutes, and tossed it into the carboy.
It is currently fermenting away in an upstairs room. Whenever I open the cupboard, the sickly farty smell of fermenting fruit wafts out, so I know something is going on.
I took a gravity reading after putting it upstairs, and learned that if grav of cider is anything similar to that on beer, there would be only about 4-5% ABV when this is done. KEL like them strong, so with her consent, I boiled up and cooled a pound of white sugar, which should add about 2% alcohol to the mix (1 LB sugar adds about 46 grav points to one gallon, so it adds about 15 grav points to three gallons–that means about 2% ABV if it ferments down to about 1.005).
After 8 days, the CO2 lock is still bubbling away. It was never all that active, never nearly as powerful as when I pitch a beer on a vibrant yeast cake, but still fermenting away.
Just an aside: the jugs of cider that I ordered from our cider guy had labels that said they had preservatives added. This is a no-no, because it will inhibit the yeast (which is what preservatives do). I spoke to cider man Jim at the market this past Saturday, and he said that he had put the wrong labels on. He had already put lids on them, and the lids are colour coded (red lids have preservative, white do not; ours had white lids) but must have been in a hurry. I understand, because he was doing a special order and those can mess up your routine. In any case, it is fermenting, so I am not too worried.
Now, in about 5 months, we’ll see how it went. So far, it smells disgusting, and looks disgusting. But I don’t like cider anyway.