Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pressing Apples and Pitching Yeast; the Hard Cider is Bubbling

One night back in August, our good friend Devin came over for dinner and a few drinks. We were probably talking about the barn or some other happiness and he must have forgotten who he was talking to, as he said he'd really like to make some hard cider some day.  Well, I am incredibly impulsive and Ryan is a very good sport. So while Devin was still talking cider, I was online researching, being egged on by Well Preserved, firing off emails to arrange to go apple picking at the farm and had found a press on craigslist that we drove to pick up two nights later. Phew.

So jump ahead a month from our lovely and impulsive drive to Keswick, Ontario. We bought our amazing press from an Italian wine maker with a killer vegetable garden and now we're at the farm.  Sigh.  The farm and its amazing apple trees that are having an amazing season in Prince Edward County.  Sigh.

We came home with 8 bushels of apples.  Home to Toronto, the racoon capital of the world. We stored the apples out on the deck so they would benefit from the cold temperature at night.  Every morning I woke up and opened 8 giant rubbermaid tubs of apples and every night I tried to remember to close them back up. Hilarity, with much broom shaking at racoons and squirrels.

Two days before cider pressing day, piles of gorgeous crab apples showed up from our old Leslieville dog park friend Susan.

Then the organic cranberries went on sale post Thanksgiving. So I bought 8 pounds.  Now we're on to something.

So on a nice chilly Thursday morning in October, while the neighbours were all at work, Devin, Ryan, and I ate some apple crisp, set up the camera (we did all meet in film class) and started cutting apples.

So many apples.  6 bushels went towards cider, so 250 pounds in all.

Honestly, we didn't have a clue what we were are doing despite two months of research now and a bad test run in September. 


After a ton of trouble shooting, we have the first real flow of cider!

drip, drop.

It's pink!

It flows!

Most importantly, it's freakin' fantastic!

We had a hard time for the first little bit.  We needed to chop things much finer than we had thought. Next year we'll build a grinder contraption. My poor poor food processor.  At least we had help.

Another mistake I made was that I had froze some chopped apples to protect them from the beasts.  The cold is supposed to help with the taste but they really needed to thaw before we pressed them,  Frozen apples turn into hard masses that are colder than the universe when you press them. It's dreadful.

After some trouble shooting we finally hit on a combination of cheese cloth, pressure, non napping toddler, and unfrozen apples that led to beautiful flowing cider.

And a good time was had by all!

So after a taste, it all went in my grandfather's carboy along with some camden tablets.  Two days later we added a champagne yeast starter and things are bubbling away happily.

The idea that started in August, led to a bunch of fun in September, is well on it's way to fruition in October, for bottling in November, to hopefully drink and share in December. All because Devin wanted some cider.

We'll be writing a little more about our actual process and organic / non GMO home brewing in the next few weeks but in the meantime here's an another time lapse:  

This 3 minute video covers 8 hours of apples.  My favourite part is the oozing of apples from the first press (this should not have happened). Others like how the toddler keeps getting more clothes, how the dog is eating way too many apples and how we clearly stopped to eat lunch and dinner. What's your favourite part?  And is there anything you want to know?


  1. PS We are taking all cider advice so if you have some, please pass it on :)

  2. Awesome! I love watching these and so wish I was your neighbor!! XOXOXO

  3. Laura, you are my hero! Now it's time to find a cider doughnuts recipe!

  4. AAA! I want someeee!!
    It's fun to see the process. My gosh.. I'm so thirsty right now!


  5. What a great experience with yummy results.

  6. Thanks for sharing these great photos, I enjoyed watching the whole process!! Looks like the end result was very yummy!! :)

  7. This is fantastic! I'm so impressed!

  8. This is so funny because we went through almost the exact same process! It was our 1st year making cider too, and ours is happily bubbling away as well as I write this. So fun to see someone else in the same head space! (I blogged mine too if you are curious to see pics!) I wish ours was pink though!

  9. What a fantastic post to share! I could almost taste it! Looks like a venture well worth the time and effort.

  10. Very cool Laura!! I love the dog sneaking in!!

    Perfect ending too! :-D

  11. We are also crazy people who own a cider press but no apple trees. Fortunately the man who sold it to us was very instructional.

    First, he advised not to press apples until you can plunge your thumb through them, i.e. let them get soft and mushy on their own. We usually pick in October and age the babes in the garage until November when they are soft.

    Second, our cider press has a grinder. It helps a ton - no cutting or chopping at all. In a pinch, a friend used his sausage grinder for apples, so you could try that if you have a meat grinder.

    Third, our hard cider aged forever, like three months in the carboy. We racked off and let it clarify for another month or so before bottling. Then it needed to age in the bottle for four months before it was drinkable. Now, a year later, it is fan-freaking-tastic.

    Happy cider making!!

  12. YAY -- another cider-maker! We are making cider for the second time and I'm chronicling it here: http://yankee-kitchen-ninja.blogspot.com/2011/10/making-hard-cider-part-1.html

    Like Rachel, ours took a bit longer than it sounds like yours will, as we, too, rack off for clarity and then we sparkle it (I just prefer sparkling to still). Last year it was ready about the end of January and was fantastic.

    I'm looking forward to comparing notes!!

  13. man i need a back yard.
    this was great!
    i like seeing the press, the blocks go down, up, down...

  14. Ugh, you are so far away! I would love to come have some of your cider! Looks like a fun project.

    Thank you for linking up at Tutus & Tea Parties this week! :)

  15. I love the addition of the cranberries. And that you had time to take all these lovely photos. It's going to be so good!

  16. So awesome. This is my boyfriend's first year making hard cider out of actual cider instead of apple juice concentrate (now that I work at an orchard here in PA and harassed him about it); this just makes me want to get a cider press for us next year.

  17. Thanks everyone! Just catching up now :)

    To answer a good question, our yield was really low. About 54 Litres and about half what we were expecting.

    @Vanessa We would have a good time as neighbours! Feel free to move to Canada any time :)

    @Sarah I totally want to make donuts!

    @Rebecca I can't believe how much we have in common! I love your photos.

    @Rachel The advice to wait until they are softer makes sense. We had a dry summer though so I think that's part of why the juice output was so low. The sausage grinder is a great idea. I think you're right and we'll be waiting longer than we thought :)

    @KitchenNinja I love your cider post and I think you're right. We won't rush the process. To sparkle it I think we're going to add some honey.

    @tiff you can come over anytime!

    @Julie that's why we had extra help! I need to wrangle camera and toddlers at all times!

    @Navi Do it! Craigslist!

    @everyone else, thanks so much for your encouragement. We are having a very good time :)

  18. Laura, how AWESOME! I have a question.....can you ship to NH? :) Being a Dubliner, Gar LOVES hard cider.

    Wonderful seeing the process. That was a lot of work.