This afternoon, Kim and I bottled hard cider batch 2009-1B. We started this batch back on September 14th using a Belgian Trappist yeast. It fermented quickly and vigorously. We bottled off the first part of it on September 25th. Then, we added two cups of maple syrup and allowed it to ferment until today. It didn’t seem to ferment quite as actively, but still there was a lot of sediment produced on the bottom.
We sampled it last night, and it was very good. So, we decided to bottle it today. It still had a little sweetness and a little fizz, so we didn’t add any more sugars. Hopefully it will get a little more fizzy in the bottles, but even if it doesn’t, it is pretty good as it is.
Meanwhile, I received a comment on one of my previous posts that led to a good discussion on Facebook. A first time hard cider brewer from another part of Connecticut was having a little difficulty. We compared notes and he is on his way. He did make a comment about pear cider, also known as perry. I did a little searching online and found that High Hill Orchard in Meriden sells fresh pear juice. I called them up to confirm as well as to see if they knew of people who had brewed perry and would sell me pear juice in bulk. Their pear juice costs about 30% more than fresh apple cider, but that seemed within the range, so I will head over tomorrow afternoon when he is making cider about buy six or seven gallons of pear juice. I’m planning on using the Belgian Lambic yeast which is what we used for 2008-2 and not adding any sugars. The Lambic yeast worked very nicely last year allowing the apple flavors to shine through, so I’m hoping for similar results with the hard pear cider.
It will be a few weeks before we know how this batch turns out but stay tuned. If you’ve done any interesting experimentation with hard ciders, let me know.
Last year, we bought eleven gallons of cider which we made into hard cider. We have now started our second year of making hard cider, and I thought it would be useful to recap where we are with the process.
Of the cider we made in 2008, we still have about a quarter of it. Mostly, these are the sample bottles that I will check to see how well they came up after sitting around for a year and after I’ve had more of a chance to experiment with different approaches. We probably used about half of it ourselves, either for drinks with dinner, or sometimes in cooking. The other half we gave away. Often this would come in the form of bringing cider to a party, and we’d have some of the cider at the party.
My current estimate is that it costs us about $2 for the ingredients for a large bottle of cider, and another $2 for the bottle itself. However, for the bottles we use ourselves, as well as some of the bottles we bring to parties or other events, we reuse the bottles. The small bottles probably cost a dollar each for the ingredients and a dollar each for the bottle.
Our first batch was a five gallon batch. We used champagne yeast and started the fermentation on Oct. 25th. During the fall and winter months, we keep our house on the cool side, and we didn’t rack off the cider to its second fermentation until November 18th. The yeast had pretty well used up all of the sugar and the second fermentation ended up being mostly a few days of the yeast settling out.
The first batch ended up still, dry and a clear pale yellow. It was quite good, but I think I like sparkling hard cider better. When we bottled the first batch, we added one twelfth fresh cider to provide a little sugar for the yeast to use to make carbon dioxide in the bottles. I decided to do this instead of adding sugar in an effort to keep the cider a little more pure. One twelfth fresh cider was way too much and the fizzy version of the first batch was way too fizzy. We still have a few bottles of fizzy batch one, and it will be interesting to see if it still as fizzy.
We started our second batch for the 2008 year on November 22nd. This time, we used a Belgium Lambic yeast. We started off with six gallons and let it ferment for twenty two days. With the cool temperature of our house, there was still a bit of sugar in the cider at this point. Since we were racking from a six gallon carboy to a five gallon carboy, we bottled off several bottles after the first fermentation. It turned out to be a much sweeter fizzy hard cider with a much fruitier flavor. It also ended up being a bit more cloudy.
I don’t have notes about how much longer we let the second batch go through a second fermentation, but it remains slightly cloudy, but with a nice fizz and taste.
On to 2009: On September 13th, we purchased another six gallons of cider. Unfortunately, the brew store where we like to get our yeast was closed, so we didn’t add the yeast until the 14th. This time we used a Belgian Trappist yeast. It has been warm since the 14th this cider fermented quickly. At one point, the foam was getting into the fermentation lock and we had to clean things out. Now, the fermentation has pretty much come to a stop. So, we will rack off some of the cider this afternoon and put the rest into a second fermentation. This time, we bottled about a gallon and a half after the first fermentation. We’ve added two cups of maple syrup to the cider for the second fermentation to boost the sugar content to make this a stronger hard cider. I’m hoping this will work well with the Trappist yeast. With that, I am starting to think about batch two for 2009. Anyone out there have thoughts or comments on other things to try?
The idyllic evening light faded on the children as they ran across the school ground. Inside, parents were chatting over the remains of a potluck dinner. It had brought back memories of my childhood, when I was one of the children running with the pack. The only thing that was missing was the fireflies, but it was still a little too chilly and too early in the year for them to be out. Sure, I spent time talking about town politics with new friends and Kim was at home feeling ill, but perhaps it was all that simple.
That was last night at the Multi-Age Group dinner at Beecher Road School in Woodbridge, CT. This morning, we continued with the spring idylls. Yes, the first stop was to get new medications for Kim, but while she was waiting to have her prescription filled, Fiona and I raced across the street to buy seeds and gardening tools.
Our yard is mossy and well shaded; not a prime location for a vegetable garden. We still manage to dry our clothes outside, and I gathered in some clothes this morning before the coming rain.
For our garden, the town of Woodbridge has community gardens. People can go rent a nice sunny and fertile plot of land to grow their own vegetables. We currently get our vegetables from a local community supported agriculture, or CSA farm. For our small family, we have difficulties using up all the vegetables we get each week. We don’t really need to raise additional vegetables.
Yet for me, the eighty dollars that we’ve spent on tools, seeds and the plot itself is perhaps more about relaxation, therapy, exercise and education for Fiona than about whatever we might ever get for food from our garden.
Our plot has lain fallow for a few years, and needs a lot of work. We’ve been doing all of it by hand, slowly clearing a bed and in the process discovering a small rose bush we hope to nurture back to health. Yet today, a man with a tractor at a neighboring plot offered to plow the whole plot under for us. We gladly took him up on the offer and when he was done, we started our planting.
At home in the evening, we had a simple meal; sausage, roasted potatoes and salad. The sausage was raised here in Connecticut and salad was made from greens in our CSA box. We washed it down with some hard cider that we had brewed from fresh cider from a local cider mill and bottled last fall.
Soon, we will sit back and watch a video that we checked out of the local library as we wait for the band of thunderstorms expected to pass through in the middle of the night.
Yes, it could be that it was all that simple then. It could be that through the current economic woes, more of us will find our way back to the simple pleasures of yesteryear. If so, wave at me when you pull up weeds in your plot in the community garden. I’ll give you a hand the way a neighbor gave me a hand today, and perhaps we can all share a couple bottles of home brewed hard cider afterwards.
Yesterday, we opened one of the bottles of the batch 1 fizzy cider. It was very fizzy, spewing out of the bottle. We took a couple bottles to a party to share. Today, we racked batch two of the hard cider we made.
With that, I want to try and capture a chronology and some of the details of our cider production and consumption, as well as some of the notes about project.
For our first batch, we started with five gallons of fresh cider on October 25. We added some cider yeast, which I had not activated and let it ferment for twenty-four days. We then racked the cider and let it settle for four more days. During the racking and the subsequent bottling, we probably lost a little due to spillage, or cider that got thrown out with the dregs. We also siphoned off a few pints for testing.
With that, we ended up bottling twelve twenty-two ounce bottles of hard still cider, or about half of the cider. We also bottled nine twenty-two ounce bottles that we added two ounces of fresh sweet cider to. This was so that the remaining yeast would have a little sugar to ferment to make the cider fizzy. We also bottled four twelve ounce bottles with one ounce of fresh sweet cider. Some of this was so that we could open smaller bottles to test to see if the cider was fizzy enough.
Yesterday, three weeks after we had bottled it, we opened one of the twelve ounce bottles, and it was incredibly fizzy. The bottles that we took to the party were also incredibly fizzy. We decided we would use less fresh cider for batch two of our hard cider.
We started our second batch of hard cider on the day we bottled the first batch. This batch is six gallons. We used Belgian ale yeast for this batch. I properly activated the yeast this time, but only allowed it to work for half an hour to an hour, instead of three hours before adding it to the cider. The cider fermented for twenty-two days this time. It was still fermenting a little and we racked it off to our secondary container. Like with the first batch, we siphoned off a little bit for tasting. It is sweeter and more fruity flavored.
This time, we were going from a larger container, and so we ended up bottling eleven twelve ounce bottles directly, without them going through the second fermentation.
Between the cider we’ve given away, drank at home, and used in cooking, we are now at seven bottles twenty two ounce bottles of hard still cider from batch one, seven twenty two ounce bottles of hard fizzy cider from batch one and three twelve ounce bottles of hard fizzy cider from batch one. The hard fizzy cider is marked with a purple dot on the bottle cap. We also have eleven twelve ounce bottles of hard cider that has been through only the first fermentation from batch two. They are marked with a black Y on the cap.
Later in the week, we will bottle the rest of batch two and determine if we want to add any additional sweet cider, and if so, how much.
So far, the hard cider production process has been fun and has produced some good cider. It will be interesting to see how the ciders age and what we decide on doing next year.
I’ve never been a big fan of shopping, so Black Friday is a day that I especially like to avoid stores. This year, with the economy in shambles, everyone is wondering how black this Friday will be for retailers. Other people celebrate today as “Buy Nothing Day”, saying “There’s only one way to avoid the collapse of this human experiment of ours on Planet Earth: we have to consume less.”
Yet it seems like there must be some happy medium between Black Friday and Buy Nothing Day. For me, it is the idea of a Green Friday, a Friday where people who shop, attempt to do so in a way that will help us make better use of our resources. On a simple level, this might mean buying come compact fluorescent light bulbs, or a new solar powered clothes drier.
A week ago, the Wall Street Journal had an article, Surprise Drop in Power Use Delivers Jolt to Utilities. It starts off wondering whether “An unexpected drop in U.S. electricity consumption ... isn't a byproduct of the economic downturn, and could reflect a permanent shift in consumption”. I am hoping it is a permanent shift in consumption.
The same day, NPR ran a story, New EPA Rules Imperil Parks, Critics Say. In the story, the proponents of the rule change argued that “the change is needed … to meet the growing need for electricity”. Somehow this seems to disconnect with the Wall Street Journal article.
So, beyond moving towards more energy efficient devices in our lives, what else can we do to help make Black Friday a little greener?
I’ve become more and more interested in buying local. We get much of produce from Gazy Brother’s Farm in Oxford, CT. We get a large box of fresh, in season produce that has been grown locally each week. We got our Thanksgiving Day turkey at Gozzi’s Turkey Farm in Guilford, CT. We washed this all down with some home made hard cider.
This leads to the next part of Green Friday. We are trying to have a good frugal Christmas this year, and part of what will make it successful is giving lots of homemade gifts, including some of the hard cider. For those who like to shop online, I would encourage you to buy crafts from Etsy.com. Many Etsy merchants use EntreCard to get more traffic to their blogs and stores, and I’ve found many great sites that way. A few shops to check out include Lova Revolutionary, Steam Powered Rings, and Gold Toned Designs.
Yet for us, one of the best places to go for Christmas shopping is Alpaca Hill Farm in Seymour, CT. They sell alpaca rovings for those who want to spin their own yard, alpaca yarn, for those who want to buy the yarn and do their own knitting or crocheting, as well as ready made garments. It is a fun family outing, and that is saying a lot, coming from someone that doesn’t like shopping. They will be having their open house from ten until five on November 28th and 29th as well as December 6th, 13th and 20th.
So, perhaps instead of Black Friday, where either people buy a bunch of stuff they don’t need, or retail sales plummet, we can move towards a greener Friday, where people buy things that help all of us live a kinder, gentler, happier life, that reduces all the junk we consume.