It seems I can’t stop making this particular cyder. Not because it’s so good (though it is), but because I keep trying to solve puzzles it presents.
The first attempt was easy to solve – I should have added yeast. The second one wasn’t as easy – it fermented out nicely, but developed a thick, viscous layer at the bottom during secondary fermentation.
I tried cold crashing it to see if it would settle out, but to no avail. The home brew forums were no help either. One respondent said this was normal for cider and I shouldn’t worry. It happens to his all the one time (he’d only done one batch of cider and that was still in process when he wrote). Another declared there was too much head space, but was unclear if that was the problem or he was just offering a helpful observation. Our friends at Blackledge Winery suggested it was due to the Nottingham ale yeast we used, which is highly flocculant (it causes a lot solids to drop to the bottom). That made the most sense.
I’m making the cyser again to see if I get the same foggy bottom and, if so, if a fining agent gets rid of it.
Originally, I was thinking of using isinglass. Isinglass is commonly referenced in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century professional cider manuals and a few receipt books, so I thought it would be interesting to try it. However, as I’ve been researching early American home cider production I’m having a difficult time finding isinglass in the records. In fact, I’m having a hard time finding any fining agent.
My current thinking is that most farm families tried to produce cider as cheaply and easily as possible, which means their cidering process probably differed from what was suggested in the professional manuals. Isinglass would have to be purchased, but other fining agents like ox blood and egg whites would be readily and cheaply, if not freely, available. Now I’m debating using egg whites.
You didn’t really think I’d add ox blood, did you? Although I do know where to get some.