3 Easy Ways to Make Hard Apple Cider- Hard Cider Recipes
The most basic hard apple cider can be made on your counter top in a matter of days, and is one of the easiest home ferments.  For long term storage, you need a bit more equipment, time and patience, but it’s still a fairly straightforward process.  I’ll share three ways to make hard cider in this post.
Did you know that back in colonial times, most apples were pressed into cider?  And since there was no refrigeration, the only fresh apple cider came right off the cider press.  The rest was served as hard cider.  The book Wild Fermentation notes that in Massachusetts in 1767, annual hard cider consumption was greater than 35 gallons per person – that’s a lot of cider!

Simple Hard Cider Recipe

Adapted from Spontaneous Cider in Wild Fermentation
1 gallon unpasteurized, preservative free fresh apple cider or apple juice – read the fine print.  Preservatives and pasteurization will inhibit fermentation.
You can ferment in a plastic jug, but I highly recommend transferring your fresh cider to a glass gallon jug or carboy.  Pour off about a pint of liquid so there will be room for the bubbles of fermentation.  Cover the top of your container with a coffee filter or other material that will breath enough to allow wild yeast in but with a fine enough mesh to keep fruit flies out.  Keep out of direct sunlight.  (I keep mine on the kitchen counter and cover with a flour sack towel.)
How to Make Hard Cider @ Common Sense Homesteading
Leave cider to ferment at room temperature for two days, then start tasting at frequent intervals.  When it reaches the flavor you prefer, replace lid and place the container in the fridge to slow fermentation.  When I did this, I found three days at room temp gave me a light, sweet, fizzy drink with just a light touch of alcohol.  By day five, it was stronger, and not as sweet – I prefer the younger brew.  I have not fermented longer than five days.  I kept this brew for around a month in the refrigerator.
What’s a Carboy?
carboy is a large bottle with a narrow neck, like an office water cooler bottle.  You can buy them at any homebrewing store, or online.  When you place an airlock on the opening of the bottle, this allows your brew to vent carbon dioxide while keeping out microorganisms that would give your brew an off flavor.

Traditional Farmhouse Cider

Hard, dry cider adapted from Cider Take Two in Wild Fermentation, adapted from Cider 101 in Cider, Hard and Sweet
1 gallon unpasteurized, preservative free fresh apple cider or apple juice – read the fine print.  Preservatives and pasteurization will inhibit fermentation.
Fill your jug or carboy nine-tenths full of sweet cider. (Leave out about a pint per gallon to allow room for the bubbles that will form during fermenting.)  Cover the opening of the container loosely with plastic wrap.  Place in a cool location out of direct sunlight with a pan or some sort of container below to catch overflow, if any.
After a few days (as with the simple hard cider), your brew will begin to ferment and bubble.  If it overflows, remove your plastic wrap and clean up any spills.  Cover with fresh wrap if original wrap is sticky.  Repeat as necessary.
When vigorous fermentation has stopped (only minimal bubbles should be visible), clean the exterior of container well.  This may take several weeks, depending on the temperature.  Add fresh cider to the container, leaving about 2 inches of headspace.  Seal the jug with an airlock.
Ferment for 1 to 2 more months, until very little carbon dioxide is being released and cider begins to clear.  You will end up with about an inch of yeasty sediment in the bottom of the container.
Rack the cider into a clean container with a siphon hose, leaving the sediment (lees) behind.  Put fresh water in your airlock, and seal the new jug with the airlock.  Ferment the cider for an additional one to two months.
Four to five months from when you started, your hard cider should be ready to bottle.  Age in the bottles for another month or two for best flavor.  The final product should be dry, i.e., not sweet.

Cidermaking tips:

If you can only obtain pasteurized apple cider, you will need to add yeast, such as ale yeastor wine/champagne yeast. Using a commercial yeast will also generate more consistent results in raw cider, but it not absolutely necessary.  Follow package directions to determine the amount of yeast to add.  Most packets will provide enough yeast for up to five gallons.  If you have a local homebrewing store, they should be able to help you out, or you can order online.
Many recipes will also add additional sugar or honey.  This is not required, but you may wish to experiment with other recipes if you enjoy home brewing.  Extra sugar will increase the alcohol content.
Do not use apple cider or juice with chemical preservatives such as Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, etc – they will not ferment. Blends with vitamin C added are acceptable.  Always make sure your containers and other equipment are clean and sanitized.
If you have a lot of apples but no cider, you may want to consider the book “Anyone Can Build A Whizbang Apple Grinder & Cider Press” by Herrick C. Kimball. I think Herrick can build just about anything, and makes it easy for others to build, too. (He’s the same fellow who came up with the WhizBang Chicken Plucker and he wrote The Planet Whizbang idea Book for Gardeners.)
Here’s a video showing a hard cider recipe using brown sugar and commercial yeast.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, and that you give hard cider a try. It’s a very mild alcoholic drink with a wonderful history.
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