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How To Make Apple Cider

I confess. I’ve hopped on the bandwagon. I’d like to say I was doing this stuff before it was cool but that’s just not true…

The Urban Homesteading thing has hooked me. Fermentation, urban bee keeping, wine making, foraging, and all types of DIY foodie projects…It’s fun stuff, it attracts the right kind of people, and the reason it’s become cool is that it is cool!

It’s good for us city folk to connect with the simple pleasures now and then.

My newest adventure: pressing Apple Cider. 

This stuff is thick. As a cook, you need only a mouthful to realize that:

  • A) You have never really tasted apple juice before
  • B) The culinary possibilities are enormous.
    • The juice is so thick with pectin that to make a world class apple jelly, just boil it for 20 minutes.
    • Deglaze your roasting pan with it to make a rich apple gravy.
    • A quick splash of whiskey and a dash of bitters would make a sensational winter drink. We haven’t even started talking dessert yet…

Liquid gold. But as promised, this time we’re all about Apple Cider.

Joining me was Tim Hazard & Alexander McNaughton. Tim grows organic hops for the brewers of BC (Bitterbine Hop Farm). Alexander runs our Wild Edibles Foraging Tours at Swallow Tail.

There’s no thoughtful recipes here. The fact is, making Apple Cider is a simple tradition. Bottom line: get some apples, mash them, press the juice out.

To make a good batch of cider, you’re going to need 100+ lbs of apples. 125lb made us about 6 gallons.

Most people with an apple tree are happy to share. Knock on the door and make it worth their while with a promise of cider in exchange for apples. Who’d say no?

Failing that, go to the farmers market and talk to people selling apples. All growers have a portion of unsellable apples called “culls”. These are not going to win beauty contests, but for cider, that’s just fine. Most of our apples looked as if they’d just escaped from a back-alley knife fight.

 I’ve even heard that maggots are no problem because they provide protein for your yeast to feed on… But seriously, that’s gross.

 The apples we used are Grimes Golden, Orange Pippin, Gala, Crabapple & even a few pears. If you really want to make something special, the key is to mix the characteristics of different varieties. For example, use Cox Orange Pippin for sweetness, Browns for acidity, and Crabapples for a touch of tannin.

To get started pressing and brewing, The Homesteaders Emporium in Vancouver will loan you the same cider press we used for $60. Dan’s Homebrewing Supplies, across the street, sells a homebrew startup kit with all the equipment you’ll need for $70. With this kit, you can make your own cider, beer, or wine.

Here are the recipes you’ll need, when you’ve determined whether you want your cider sweet or dry, still or sparkling.

Your go-to online resource is The Wittenham Hill Cider Portal. The 1990’s looking website could use a facelift but the content is great. It’s run by a plant biochemist/food scientist, inflicted with an obsession for cider.

Before I forget, be aware of the importance of sanitation. We’re working with wild yeasts and bacteria which are everywhere. A simple sanitizing solution comes with the homebrew kits I mentioned above. Use it on everything that might touch the apples.

If even a single fruit fly decides to go kamikaze in your juice, the whole batch could turn to vinegar. The flies like to release bacteria from their stomachs into your juice which turns the batch to vinegar because this makes perfect breeding grounds for their young.

A couple campden tablets can help kill unwanted bacteria and prevent tears. Though, if you’re a hippy like me, you’re not too fond of sulphites so you’ll opt out of this. It’s doubly important to be wary of sanitation in this case.

“Back-to-the-earth” experiences like this are great for a little contrast in our automated, electronic, buzzing lives.

I went WWOOFing in PEI a few years back and I’ll never forget this one experience…

…I was handed a crumpled piece of scrap paper with a quick sketch of a chicken coup. Next, I find myself standing alone in the barn with a hammer, nails, wire mesh and a stack of wood waiting to be transformed into this house for chickens. I’m a city boy, I didn’t know how to make a freakin’ chicken coup. But I did it anyways. And you know what, it was one of the simplest, most rewarding things I’ve done.

Gather a couple friends and give Cider Making a try!

-Matt Guterres

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4 Responses

  1. Sarah N
    Sarah N November 30, 2012 at 8:06 pm | | Reply

    Thanks Matt! Super informative post.
    Do you have any leads on where a gal like me could get a smaller amount of fresh pressed juice from? I only need a gallon or two and renting the press myself isn’t a realistic option for this small an amount.
    Big thanks!
    Sarah

    1. Matt Guterres
      Matt Guterres December 1, 2012 at 6:01 pm | | Reply

      Sure Sarah,

      The easiest way to go about this is to go to your local health food store, choices or whole foods and pick up a jug of Apple Cider there.

      Santa Cruz makes a nice sized jug http://bit.ly/Yjj5z3

      There are a number of other companies that also produce high quality pressed apple juice like this. They’re all probably fine. Just be sure to get a large glass jug like this because then you won’t even need to buy a carboy, you can just do your fermentation in the jug.

      You will still need an airlock though and some other basic brewing supplies. Whoever you talk to at the home brew shop will be able to sort that out for you.

      Good luck with it Sarah!
      Matt

  2. Sarah
    Sarah December 2, 2012 at 2:07 am | | Reply

    So awesome! Thanks for the tips!
    If it goes well, I’ll report back and if not, well, it’s because I’ve gone blind!

    1. Matt Guterres
      Matt Guterres December 4, 2012 at 11:53 pm | | Reply

      Yikes…I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you.

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