Monthly Archives: March 2014

Our Eighteenth-Century Ciders Today (Well, Yesterday)

Click here to see what it looked like when it started.

After four months in secondary, I bottled the sugar, raisin, and raw juice batch started in October, which is based on Eliza Smith’s 1739 cider receipt. I made a similar batch last year, which turned out pretty well. However, last year’s batch used a full pound of sugar, while this year I only put in .15 pound (1/3 cup) of sugar. I used less because Smith suggested two pounds of sugar for 63 gallons (assuming her hogshead was on the smaller side).

I knew using less sugar meant this batch wasn’t going to be as sweet or strong as last year’s, but I was surprised at the difference. This year’s batch was pungent, almost vinegary, and it tasted very astringent. It wasn’t the most pleasant cider I’ve made so far. J was pretty clear: she wouldn’t buy it or serve it. I’m not ready to call it a total loss. I’ll let it sit for a few months. Maybe time will mellow it.

I am curious why this batch came out as it did. I wonder if the stray bits of raisin which were racked off into the secondary affected the cider. I would think the alcohol content would have prevented them from spoiling or changing the cider, but I don’t know.

I also racked off the 1723 honey wheat cider (with added yeast) I started last month. I took a quick taste. It felt a little thicker than previous ciders, and it wasn’t as sweet. It will sit in secondary until the end of July or the beginning of August.

Next month we’ll be bottling our November ciders, which amounts to about eight gallons or 48 pint bottles. In preparation, we’ve been drinking a lot of our previous Pommel Cyders to free up enough bottles.

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Bread & Apples In the One Handy Glass

As I’ve learned more and more about cidermaking, I’ve grown less enamored with mass-produced ciders. They all seem so similar. By similar, I mean sticky-sweet and less than wonderful.

So what do you do with something that’s not fantastic (yet readily available)? You mix it with something else and hope the result is better than the sum of its parts.

Fortunately, this approach works wonderfully with mass-produced cider and beer cocktails. For instance, you can make a Black Adder.

No, not this one.

No, not this one.

A Black Adder is a layer of stout over a layer of cider. It looks like this

It helps to have a pouring spoon.

You can also make a Poor Man’s Black Velvet, which is stout and cider as well, but it’s blended rather than layered.(1)

I made this Black Velvet solely in the interest of furthering your education.

Don’t let the two names fool you. These things are not as clear as they seem. While some call the blended drink a Black Velvet and the layered a Black Adder, others use Black Velvet for both. Usually if you order a Black Velvet in a bar you’ll get a layered drink. Either way, you can’t lose.

There’s also a Snake Bite, which is lager and cider. It’s called a Snake Bite whether it’s layered or blended.

No matter what you get, be warned: these drinks are tasty and stealthy. They go down easy, but they pack an unexpected punch.


1. A stout & cider blend is called a Poor Man’s Black Velvet because the original Black Velvet consists of stout and (the more expensive) champagne.

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