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.
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.