2011 Black Current Hard Cider

I’ve just bottle 36 bottles of ‘1D’, my fourth batch of hard cider for the 2011 hard cider season. Assuming I didn’t mix up my batches, this is using the heirloom cider that I picked up at Beardsley’s Cider Mill at the beginning of November.

The first Sunday of November, Beardsley’s makes a special batch of cider, using heirloom apples, quince, and whatever else is in season, for a brewing club. They all come down with their carboys to fill up and to share cider and stories from previous year’s batches. This year, I had some interesting flavored ciders. One was made with elderberries and another with black current juice. The black current cider was really good, but it was a bit sweet. I think the guy making it just hasn’t mastered the proportions. The elderberry cider was also quite good. There were also discussions of making whisky and oak flavored ciders by adding in different types of wood chips.

An old friend from work had expressed interest in making flavored ciders, and it was too bad that he didn’t make it to cider day. Another friend brought in an article from a British magazine about different flavored ciders. So, I decided that I would try making some black current cider, myself.

Kim brought home a gallon and a half of black current juice from Maple Lane Farms in Preston, CT. I’m glad to be using local juices as part of my locavore approach to cider brewing. I then headed over to Maltose Express in Monroe. I needed to pick up more bottles for storing my cider and I wanted to pick up some yeast for new batch.

So far, this year, I’ve been using a Belgian Abbey Ale yeast, that has worked nicely for me. However, I was concerned that this yeast may be close to dying out and I wanted to try more of a wine yeast for this batch. I asked for recommendations, and they recommended a cider yeast. They always do, but I’m just not interested in Cider yeasts. So, they came back with Lalvin 71B-1122. It is supposed to be a rapid starter and work well in a wide temperature range, which is important in our chilly house. It sounds like a really nice yeast for what I’m doing.

I stopped at Beardsley’s and picked up five gallons of fresh cider and headed home.

Years ago, when my eldest kids were very young, we would drive to Jones Tree Farm, which is fairly close to the cider mill. To keep them entertained in the car, one year, we started counting the number of Christmas Trees we saw on different cars. We have kept this up as a tradition, and so I counted Christmas trees on my drive. Since I would be going by Jones Tree Farm on the first Saturday of December, I figured that I would get a pretty high number, and I wasn’t disappointed. I counted 164 Christmas Trees on the tops of cars during my trip.

Back home, I bottled the ‘1D’ batch of cider. As I always do, I pour off a glass of it to taste, and this batch has come out extraordinarily well. Kim said that it may have been the best batch yet. I’m drinking some of that glass as I write this blog post.

I put the new bottles in the dishwasher to sterilize them. I had done this with thirty six other bottles earlier, so I had enough bottles for most of the ‘1D’ batch. However, it wasn’t quite enough and there was probably half a gallon of hard cider remaining that I didn’t have bottles for. I could wait until the dishwasher finished, mix up some sterilizing solution, throw out the cider, or use it as a base for the new batch.

I really wanted the 71B yeast to be the dominant yeast, so I hesitated with the final option, but I certainly didn’t want to throw out any of the batch. Kim agreed that it would probably be fine to use it as a base for the new batch, so off we go. The new batch has 1 gallon of black current juice, 5 gallons of fresh cider, and about half a gallon of the 1D hard cider batch. We’ll see how it comes out.

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