Showing posts with label cider. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cider. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


A while back, when Mrs V and I were training to walk the West Highland Way, at least one day a weekend you would find us out in the mountains with our good friends Dave and Ali traipsing along trails. One of those weekends, and actually an Ali-less hike, we started out from Milam Gap in the Shenandoah National Park headed for the Lewis Falls. Perhaps the most unexpected thing we came across during the hike were feral apple trees.

Before this area was a national park, the Milam apple was a local staple cash crop, and there are some fascinating pictures of apple, and 'sider', sellers at the trail head. As we hiked back to the car we agreed to return in the autumn and glean as many apples as possible with a view to making our own cider. Thus a few weeks ago we returned with a couple of bags to fill with feral apples, mostly fairly small and tart, but a few bigger, blander ones as well - I also picked some thistle heads for making cheese with at some point.

There was however a problem, we didn't have a press with which to get at whatever juice was in the apples. Eventually though Dave decided to invest in a hydraulic press and we got together to see what we could get. First things first though, I must admit that this was a small scale project, just a half bushel or so of apples, and they really didn't look promising, as you can see.

Given the small scale of the project we decided not to worry too much about how we were going to grind the fruit, preferring to pound the apples to a pulp using a 2x4 and an aluminium brew pot.

The important part of this run was to test the press, and as you can see from the following pictures, it was a resounding success.

Once we were done, we had about a gallon and a half of fresh pressed apple juice ready to just sit around and let whatever wild yeast was on the apples do it's thing, and with it plans to increase production on the next run!

Said next run came a week later. Dave had been out walking his dogs around the Crozet area and noticed orchards with lots of dropped apples on the floor. Having inquired as to the ownership of said orchard he learnt that it was possible to glean fallen apples for a pittance, and thus we set a date and time to meet up and gather what we could between the three of us. Again Ali wasn't able to join us, but studying for her PhD defense was an acceptable reason.

Over the course of a couple of hours the three of us managed to glean about 4 bushels of fallen apples, gathered into burlap coffee sacks that weighed down Dave's car to a rather worrying extent.

We headed back to Dave's place to test out his even newer bit of kit, for he had built a grinder!

Having a grinder made short work of turning the shit ton of apples we had gathered into a respectable pulp for putting into cheeses in the press, and after a few hours of grinding, pressing, drinking Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest and my home brew best bitter, we ended up with 17 gallons of juice, all of which is fermenting away to make that most wonderful of glorious booze products, cider. Even though I am first and foremost a beer drinker, I do have a soft spot for cider, especially in summer, with a Ploughman's lunch....ahhhhh the idyll.

We paid $20 for the apples, which works out to $1.18 per gallon of juice, given 8 US pints in a US gallon, we will be drinking cider sometime next year for just $0.15 per pint. Not a bad return on investment for a couple of hours labour in an orchard, and then several hours drinking and pressing juice. Almost makes you wonder what the mark up is on commercial cider?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cider Pork Roast

It was about this time in 2009 that Mrs Velkyal and I made our first attempt at making cider. I say "first" although in reality to date it is our only attempt at cider making, but it most certainly will not be the last. One thing we will remember to do next time is to prime the cider at bottling. I know there is a school of opinion out there that likes still cider, but I am most assuredly not a member of that particular persuasion. I like a little sparkle, not fizzy, but gently carbonated, the French would call it "pétillant", the Czechs have the wonderful phrase "jemně perlivá". My maple mead is lightly carbonated, and at nearly 10% abv all the better for it, but the cider is flat.

We have toyed with idea of what to do with the remaining couple of gallons of cider and not done anything with it other than leave it in the cellar, a quick note for my American friends and readers, cider with no alcohol is not cider, it is apple juice, thus the term "hard cider" is pointless. Suggestions have included making cider vinegar and then using it in chutneys and the like, Mrs V and I both love to cook, so it would be nice not to have to buy vinegar in chutney making season. It was in one of my cooking moods that I decided to make a stab at using a bottle up, with my Sunday roast.

Growing up, almost every Sunday had as the heart of the day a roast dinner. Most often chicken, but also beef, lamb, pork and occasionally venison or mutton. Whatever we had was served with at least roast potatoes, veggies and onion gravy. Yesterday I cooked a roast pork lunch, served with roast potatoes, braised leeks and onion gravy, and to top it all, it was the first time I had made that most delectable of foods, crackling.

Usually the leeks are braised in white wine, but I ditched that (well alright then I didn't have any white wine) and used cider. The rest of my bottle went into the onion gravy to give it a nice tart apple bite to balance the sweetness of the caramelised onions, I roasted the pork on top of the sliced onions, to the pork fat, as well as keeping the meat moist, also cooked the onions.

To make the gravy, I chucked the onions and juices from the roasting dish into a saucepan, added some flour for thickening and then poured in good half pint of cider with a quarter pint of water from boiling the potatoes and let it boil away to reduce. Eventually Mrs V and I had plates looking like this:

Paired with this delight of pork and veggies was a high ball glass of 7 UP with a liberal dose of brandy in the top - lately I've been on something of a spirits and soft drinks kick, which is most disturbing, though thankfully the sanctity of my single malts is still intact.

A minor diversion from beer, to be sure, but a tasty one I can assure you - and yes, the crackling crackled and was cracking.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mrs Velkyal's Cider

Sometimes it feels as though our flat is slowly turning into a home-made alcoholic beverage production line. Regular readers will know that I have a 60/- Scottish ale currently in my carboy, which will be bottled on Monday, and then in a quick turn around I plan to brew up my imperial stout on Tuesday. Yesterday though, we added another boozy project to the list, when Mrs Velkyal made her first batch of cider. Last week there was an apple festival near Charlottesville, so while I was at work in the brewery, Mrs V went with a colleague and came back with 3 US gallons of pressed apple juice.

In order to make the cider we needed more fermenting space, so up to Fermentation Trap we went and bought another 3 gallon carboy, the necessary bung, airlock and yeast. Originally we were going to use wine yeast, but after speaking to the guy working in the store we opted for the Safale 04 dry yeast, which apparently most cider makers in these parts use. I also picked up some more steriliser because I didn't like working with the C-Brite stuff.

Mrs Velkyal's recipe was simplicity itself:
  • 2.5 gallons pressed apple juice with no preservatives and junk
  • Safale 04 yeast
The process was also simplicity itself, as you can see from these pictures:

1. Mrs V pouring the juice into the carboy

2. Yeast sprinkled on the must

3. Yeast happily doing its thing.

The OG of the must was 1.044, so we are looking for a 4.5%-5%ABV cider when it is done, and after months in bottles conditioning, something nice and refreshing for next summer. Now, where can we hide a small still?

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