Friday, October 23, 2009


We opened a bottle of our homemade beer the other day (we needed it after all the chicken-butchering that day...). And it was-- good! Bubbly, smooth, bitter, yeasty, tasty! Not award-winning, but totally drinkable. Success! Room for growth, but success nonetheless.

I had already started another 1-gallon batch of beer, so Nathan helped me bottle it today. I'm now out of beer ingredients, but it was cider-pressing day at our Amish neighbor's, so that provided me with a new brewing experiment. We had gotten a good deal on a nice mix of cider apples, and Nathan took them for pressing this morning (he didn't make me go in the pouring rain-- ain't he sweet?) and brought me ten gallons.

I'm going to make some lacto-fermented cider, which is non-alcoholic and totally delicious, but I decided to experiment with some hard cider and vinegar this year.

And when I say "experiment" I mean EXPERIMENT.

You know I'm just not happy unless I'm experimenting. Especially when it involves things rotting in my kitchen.

I did lots of reading about making hard cider, but found quite a number of different methods. I decided to work with what I have and brew every batch differently.

Nathan's been collecting small carboys for me, so I got them cleaned and sanitized.

Some sources say to pasteurize the cider and some say not. I, of course, would prefer it unpasteurized, but I decided that to try some that way and some raw and see what results.

I used a dry-fermenting wine yeast in four of the bottles.

And in the fifth, I got really wild and crazy. I collected the trub (sediment) from the bottom of a jug of raw cider vinegar. I was going to siphon the cider off so that I would have the nice thick stuff, but then I thought... no. A big mouthful of straight cider? No thanks. (Though I am getting better at getting the siphon going without drowning.) I decided to pour carefully. This mixed up my yeast a little bit, so I let it settle out in a jar and then sucked it off the bottom with a turkey-baster.

I added that baster-full of yeast to a jug of cider and we'll see what happens. If it's not drinkable, that will be okay as I'll just let it keep going to vinegar. I'm hoping to be able to make plenty of vinegar anyway.

I also added some lemon juice to the pasteurized cider.

To some jugs I added white sugar and to one I added Sucanat and to some I added no sugar. And I numbered the jars and wrote down what's in each one.

And I realize, of course, that I have an awful lot of variables for only five jugs. (One variable per jug? Nah. That kind of control is for sissies.) But whatever. It'll keep me guessing enough to entice me to do it again.

Due to a deficiency of airlocks, I resorted to colorful party balloons. Hey, they'll do the job-- keep air out while preventing the jugs from exploding into sticky glass shrapnel while I'm innocently washing dishes. Of course Jonah is fascinated by the balloons, and asked me what we'll do with the big balloons after the jugs blow them up...

Maybe we'll have a party.


  1. I made vinegar the lazy way. I just put about 2 oz. of the Bragg's vinegar in my glass jar of cider and it's perking away...Did it last year. It made fine vinegar but quite sweet because the apples were so sweet.

    The balloons are a good idea.

  2. If it's sweet, it just means it's not finished fermenting. In order to get vinegar, you have to go through an alcoholic fermentation first, with the jar closed off from open air. When it's completely fermented (which can take awhile, depending on the conditions) you can open it up to the air and let it keep going to vinegar.

  3. It's been a year and it acts "done". No more action happening. It smells and tastes like vinegar, just sweeter than any I've had before.

  4. I love this, woman after my own heart. i love experimenting too. i just figured out that my crock pot setting on "keep warm" is exactly 110 degrees, say hello to my new yogurt maker!! We made yogurt in the crock pot and it worked great!