Holiday Cider

Today, Fiona and I took another drive over to Beardsley’s Cider Mill. Along the way, we counted Christmas Trees on top of the cars. The total we ended up with on the trip was 229. That was partly because Beardsley’s is near Jones Tree Farm.

At the mill, we picked up another six gallons of fresh cider. This batch was about equal parts fuji, macintosh, and red delicious, and a little bit of mutsu thrown in. We also picked up some apple jelly. We then drove over to Maltose Express to pick up some new yeast. I found some Wyeast Eau de Vie strain. This yeast requires a higher temperature than other yeasts, which isn’t great for our house since we keep the house pretty cool. On the other hand, it has an alcohol tolerance of 21% ABV, low flocculation and produces a very clean, dry profile, with low ester formation and other volatile aromatics. It should be good for a dry apple wine.

With the high alcohol tolerance of the yeast, I figured I should really try boosting the sugar content in the cider. I like to stay with local and natural ingredients, so I put in a half gallon of maple syrup that we got from the Hebron Maple Festival this spring. I tried to calculate ahead of time how much this would boost the sugar level, but I figured no matter how much I put in, the yeast would eat it all up.

Last year, Kim got me a hydrometer for Christmas. So, I measured the specific gravity of the cider. It started off at 1.062. This cider has a much higher sugar content than other batches of cider we’ve gotten from Beardsley. Adding half a gallon of maple syrup to the six gallons of cider boosted the specific gravity up to 1.090. Using Dave’s Homebrew calculator and previous experience, I’m expecting this cider should come out to be about 12% ABV.

Doing a few further calculations, I figure that if I wanted to end up with 21% ABV, I probably need about a gallon and a half of maple syrup for a six gallon batch of cider, or put simply, a quart of syrup per gallon of cider. Maple syrup is pretty expensive. A quick check online shows LL Bean selling Grade A maple syrup at $32/quart. Amazon has some syrup as low as $18/quart. That is probably Grade B maple syrup. Grade B maple syrup is darker and has a stronger maple taste. Personally, I think a strong maple taste is really good when making hard cider, and as a general rule, we always buy Grade B maple syrup.

In testing the cider with maple syrup, I siphoned off enough to fill the cylinder to test it. At the same time, I gave it a little taste test. The maple cider was almost like candy. It was very good. I’ve saved a cup for Fiona for when she gets home from a birthday party.

In thinking a little more about it, it seems like this is close to some of the hot mulled cider recipes. However, I’m probably using about twice as much maple syrup in the cider as most hot mulled cider recipes that call for maple syrup use.

Whether drinking some of the apple cider with maple syrup in it as is, or drinking it later when the fermentation is done, maple syrup and apple cider make a great holiday cider combination.

(Categories: )