Monthly Archives: October 2013

Eliza Smith’s “Compleat” Cyder Receipt

It’s been a year since Pommel Cyder was founded. It all started with a windfall of free raw cider from my day job. I’m curator at a historic site. We host an annual harvest festival, which includes apple pressing. This past weekend was our most recent festival and I came home with more farm-pressed cider.

The Cydery’s inaugural  batches included a gallon based on this receipt (18th-century for recipe) from The Compleat Housewife by Eliza Smith. (1)

Of the many early cider instructions I’ve seen, this is one of my favorites. It uses few ingredients and is pretty straightforward. It’s a good one for the home cider maker, then and now.

When I made this last year I got sugar and raisins at the store, put them in the carboy, and away they went. In my enthusiasm I didn’t think to get unsulphited raisins. Sulphites are a preservative. They inhibit microbial growth, which is good for preservation, but bad for fermentation. Last year’s batch did ferment, but the raisins had little impact, except to suck up a lot of juice (I also didn’t soak them before putting them in the fermenter) and take up a lot of space that could have gone to more juice.

This year I thought I’d try again, but better this time. I mashed and soaked about 1/2 cup of organic raisins, added a 1/3 cup of sugar and bottled it together.

Since Smith didn’t add yeast, I didn’t either. There are enough natural yeasts in the juice to ferment out.

It’ll be curious to watch this over the next few weeks. If history is any guide, it will go from opaque to almost clear.

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1. This is from the (1739) ninth edition of Smith’s The Compleat Housewife. This receipt is also reprinted word-for-word in the (1758) sixteenth edition. I don’t have access to other editions to know how long this particular receipt was in print.

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The Benefits of Modern Cidering, a Cold Crashing Trial, and More Bottling & Racking

If you lived at any time prior to now, cidering would have been a strictly seasonal operation. You’d have to harvest, press, and ferment in September and early October, rack it off by December, and then let everything condition until April or May of the following year. While you can still get raw cider and ferment the old-fashioned way, today there are alternatives for those of us who want to experiment year-round.

Thanks to organic markets, like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, you can get unfiltered and (more importantly) preservative-free juice which can be fermentably improved. This past February I started three new batches with Whole Foods juice: one with just cider yeast, one with the cider yeast and a half pound of sugar, and a third with the cider yeast and pound of sugar. In March I started another three gallons using the same ingredients, but this time I fermented everything for three weeks instead of four.

I wanted to cold crash (chill the juice to stop fermentation and help the lees settle out) the March batches so I could compare the differences between those and the un-crashed February ciders.

After racking into secondary fermentation containers, I left everything to bulk age a little longer then my normal four months to see how well they’d clear up. Pasteurized juices tend to be very hazy even after they’ve fermented, unless you add a fining agent to drop the lees out or let them sit and condition a while.

I only cold crashed the ciders for 24 hours, so I wasn’t sure how much difference it would make all these months later. Before bottling, I noticed a slight color difference between them. The February batches are a little darker than the March ones, as you can (kinda) see here:

To test everything further, we tasted as we bottled. Apart from the color difference, the March batches tasted brighter, for lack of a better word. And they both were much clearer than an earlier Whole Foods batch I made.

While the pre-bottle sampling was rampant, there was still enough for all this…

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After bottling, I racked off the Trader Joe’s juice I started last month. It will also sit for several months so it can clear. Now, with that done, I can turn my attention to acquiring some local raw juice for some old-fashioned fermenting.

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