Saturday, September 1, 2007

The True Cost of Cider

One of our favorite fall activities is picking apples and taking them to Rocky Creek Farm to be pressed into cider, which tastes much better than the processed sugar-water that comes in commercial cider jugs. This year has been a bumper year for apples, which are weighing down branches of apple trees that don't normally bear many; after several minimal years, it is a nice change. So we figured we'd get lots of cider this year. We just didn't figure on how much it would cost.

Ignoring costs for our time (since we enjoy the picking as long as there aren't any wasps out) and the gas used to drive to the trees and to Rocky Creek Farm, it costs $4/gallon of cider to get it pressed. But that assumes that everything goes right. On our second trip to pick apples, one of our dogs cut herself on the leg, all the way to the bone (on barbed wire, we assume); there wasn't much blood, but it definitely needed stitches. So add a trip to the vet to the cost of the cider. At $120, spread out over 12 gallons of cider, that makes the cider worth $14/gallon. It's good cider, but I'm not sure I can justify that price. I guess we'll just have to pick more apples so we can amortize the vet bill over more gallons, maybe get it down to $9/gallon. Of course, that creates more opportunities for someone to get hurt or something to break...

When we have enough cider to justify it, I like to make hard cider (or rather, present it as a chemistry experiment to my high schoolers). To make a gallon of hard cider, you need a glass gallon jug, an airlock to fit, and some wine or champagne yeast from a homebrew store. Boil 1 gallon of cider, then pour it into the glass jug. Add 1 cup sugar, more or less, depending on how hard you want the cider; the more sugar you add, the harder the cider. Dissolve 1 gram of yeast in a little luke warm water for 15 minutes, then add it to the jug. Add enough water to the airlock to seal it, then fit it firmly into the jug mouth.

Put the jug in a cool (55 degree) spot for a month. The cider should start to push bubbles through the airlock in a day; when it quits, the cider is ready. Be sure to check the airlock regularly to make sure it has enough water in it to seal; yeast makes alcohol if there is no oxygen present, acetic acid (vinegar) if oxygen is present. If things go awry, call your local homebrew store. When the cider is ready, pour it into bottles and seal tightly; try to leave the sediment in the jug. Refrigerate until ready to use. If you are lucky, the result will be similar to Normandy cider, full of apple flavor but with the sweetness gone. It is great with pork dishes, especially ones with apples or pears. Or serve it with crepes for an authentic pairing.

No comments: