Saturday, November 26, 2011

What I am Brewing: Thanksgiving Turkey Cider

A whole lot of apples... ready for cider!
We made two 5 gallon batches with this fruit.
From top to bottom: 
4 types of local Turkish apples
Turkish Granny Smith apples
Local Turkish quince

So I finally got around to documenting one of my brew sessions.  This time I was making Hard Apple Cider with a few of my friends (Jake and Brianna).  Local apples are rather cheap this time of year, so this is a great time to make some cider.  

There are quite a few hard apple cider recipes available online.  There are also a number of books out there on the subject as well.  This is not the only way to make hard apple cider.  There is some more professional equipment out there (i.e. grinders, presses, etc.), but we don't have it.  The bottom line is that if I can do this with the basic beer homebrewing equipment that I have, anyone can do this.

Give it a try!

I'll start first with my brewing notes:

Name: Thanksgiving Turkey Cider

History of this drink:  
Cider is a very old and very famous (and infamous) alcoholic beverage.  Yes, there is non-alcoholic cider.  This is just unfiltered apple juice.  Filtered apple juice is sold as "Apple Juice", and unfiltered apple juice is sold as "Cider" in grocery stores in the U.S.  Hard Cider, or alcoholic cider, is what we made the day after Thanksgiving with local ingredients from Turkey... hence the name.  In the U.S., cider has a long history.  It was the most popular drink in Colonial times.  This was mainly due to the fact that most water was not safe to drink (boiling and/or filtration was not yet understood).  Hard Cider remained a very popular drink in the U.S. until Prohibition (13 years in the U.S when all alcoholic beverages were illegal - 1920-1933), but it never regained its popularity in post-Prohibition times.  In many other parts of the world, especially the UK, cider and cider making has a long and respected history, and it is still a popular drink today.

  • 3 Gallons (60%) Neutral Base: Local Turkish apples from the open air market

         - 10 kg (22 lbs) Light Green Apple
     - 5 kg (11 lbs) Red Apple with Green Blush
     - 5 kg (11 lbs) Pale Yellow Apple with Light Brown Spots
     - 5 kg (11 lbs) Red Apple with Light Yellow Stripes
  • 1 Gallon (20%) Tart Apple

         - ~8.5 kg (18.75 lbs) Granny Smith Apples
  • 1 Gallon (20%) Aromatic / Astringent Apples

         - 10.8 kg (24 lbs) Quince - yeah not technically an apple, but the only thing I could find with high tannin content
  • 2 lbs Sue Bee Clover Honey
  • Wyeast 4766 Cider Yeast

  • Juiced all the apples in Jake's fruit/vegetable juicer
  • Placed all the juice into a large stainless steel stockpot
  • Brought to a low simmer - just giving off steam but not bubbles forming at all
  • Added the honey
  • Simmered for 45 minutes - never allowing a boil
  • Let cool on the stovetop for about an hour
  • Transferred to a sterilized (with bleach) glass 5 gallon (19 liter) carboy
  • Stoppered and allowed to cool overnight
  • In the morning, pitched the yeast
  • Ferment, rack, bottle, age, drink!

  • All fruit was grown locally in Turkey.
  • I hope to go back to the market and get the local names of the apples I purchased.  This would be mainly for my own reference, but it would be good to know.
  • Cider is usually made from a blend of apples.  This is because there are only a few apples which contain all the characteristics needed for an "ideal" juice to ferment.  The juice should strike a good balance between Aromatic, Tart, and Astringent.  Astringency is really a measure of the tannins - the dryness factor - that makes makes your mouth feel like you have just bit into an unripe apple or piece of wood.  It is far easier to obtain a blend of apples that fit these flavor characteristics.
  • Quince - I could find no apples that had a high tannin content.  The only apples I could find (other than the tart Granny Smith) were fresh eating, dessert style apples... sweet with medium acidity.  I am guessing on the acidity levels, since I didn't measure the pH.  Quinces are very aromatic and have a high tannin content.  You really can't eat a quince raw because of the tannins.  You have to poach them before eating.  I thought I would stretch the traditional cider definition and add another species of fruit, although quince are very closely related.  You can read more about Quinces here in this article.
  • The honey is from the U.S.  I had planned on purchasing local honey, but did not get to it by brewing time.  Afterwards, I learned that many of the local honey producers water down their honey to increase their income.  I know a local chef who is a "honey snob", so I plan to find a honey supplier through him soon.
  • It takes from about 15-20 lbs (6.5-9.0 kg) apples to make 1 gallon (3.75 L) of juice.  More if the fruit is dryer, like the quince.
  • I used about 98 lbs (44 kg) of fruit for 5 gallons (19 L)... this was 19.5 lbs per gallon (2.3 kg/liter)
  • For future batches, I would like to try a batch without pasteurizing and just using the apples natural yeasts - a bit more risky, but the more traditional way of making cider

The fruit was rinsed in the sink, and the larger apples and quince were cut into smaller pieces.

Jake manned the juicer.  
The juicer is the smaller stainless steel box his hand is resting on, not the larger stainless steel water filter in the back.  The juicer emptied into a small pitcher.  The very dry pulp was pushed out the back into a small receptacle.

You can use a juicer, blender, or food processor to "grind and press" the apples on a smaller level.  I hope to one day have an apple grinder and press, but that will come after I have my own apple trees.

Brianna and I organizing the flow of work.

After the apples were juiced, we strained the juice through a cheesecloth (not pictured).  
The strained juice was held briefly in this bowl before being poured into a 2 quart (0.5 gallon/1.9 L) apple juice bottle.  I used this to keep track of how many gallons of juice we had made/had left to go.

The measured juice was poured into the big stainless steel stockpot (Jake's brew kettle).
After bringing it up to a low simmer to pasteurize the juice.  We simmered for 45 minutes.  The honey was added at the very beginning of the simmering process, added slowly and stirred in.
A lot of impurities floated and collected on the top during the simmering process.

These impurities were easy to skim off the top.  
We tried skimming two ways, first with just a spoon and second with a spoon and this small strainer.
I think I prefer the spoon by itself.  It appears that the strainer left a lot of smaller particles in the juice and resulted in a more cloudy finished product.  However, it may not make any difference after proper racking (siphoning the fermented cider off the sediment that collects at the bottom of the carboy).

The strained and pasteurized apple-quince juice (aka "must") with honey added.
A beautiful reddish-orange color.  This was stoppered and allowed to cool overnight.  You can see that I didn't quite make 5 gallons of juice.  I was closer to 4.5 gallons.  This may be from the skimming process.  In the future, I think I will shoot for about a 10-15% overage.  Whatever doesn't fin in the carboy, I will just drink straight as non-alcoholic cider.

Primary Fermentation
After the yeast was pitched (added to the juice), a "blow off" tube was added to the carboy, and the free end was placed in a water trap.  You can see just the beginnings of the fermentation getting started... it is the thin layer of foam at the top of the juice.  This will turn into a vigorous, rolling fermentation at the beginning of primary fermentation.  When this settles down, I will take off the large tube and put a much smaller air lock in place.

The water trap allows only air to escape, but not work back into the carboy.
I used an old pitcher from a Brita Water Filter.  The spout firmly holds the tubing in place.

The carboy is covered with an old, clean towel.  
This acts just a little as insulation, but mainly as a light barrier.  UV light can cause off flavors to develop in your fermenting cider.

I'll update this post as the cider making process progresses... stay tuned!


  1. I was wondering if have a solution for store it all, and if yes, i would like to know how.

  2. Next time try with some ginger. It's really delicious ! Ho and if you want to make more cider, you should try a bottle washer machine.

  3. Indeed it would be delicious with some ginger.. how does a bottle washer work ?

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