Monthly Archives: July 2014

Pommel Cydery In Review


A friend recently pointed out that summer 2014 is half over. While I cursed her words, she’s right. Which means it’s time to start gearing up for the fall. For my friend that means getting her kids ready for school and for me that means getting ready for a third cydering season.

As I’ve been thinking about what’s next, I’ve been reviewing what I’ve done so far. I started cydering by just jumping right in and picking things up as I went (which I highly recommend to anyone who might have an interest in making their own). While that was a great way to build a little experience quickly, it was by no means systematic or complete. Usually I was reading a step or two ahead of where I was.

Now that I have a working outline of cyder making, I want to flesh that out and focus on things I haven’t done before. To help that along, I spent spent a little time pulling together an overview of the Cydery’s work since October 2012. It looks like this:


According to the process outlined in Cider by Annie Proulx & Lew Nichols, there are twelve absolutely necessary steps in making cider. The bolded lines are what I’ve done so far:

    1. Harvesting
    2. Sweating
    3. Washing
    4. Grinding
    5. Pressing
    6. Blending
    7. Testing
    8. Fermentation
    9. Racking Off
    10. Filtering or Fining
    11. Bottling
    12. Storage[1]


Fermented 29 gallons of juice[2]

Made 24 discrete batches, including:
    16 cyders
    5 perries (common)
    4 cysers
Batches made from different juices and yeasts, including:
    8 from raw juice
    16 from pasteurized juice
    4 with natural yeasts
    20 with lab yeasts

And that’s my complete cyder CV. When I look at it like this it doesn’t seem like very much.

Now that I know where I’ve been I have a better idea of where I’m headed next. But that’s for later. In the meantime I’ll be out drinking some of last year’s cyder and enjoying what’s left of this summer. I think I’ll call my friend so we can do all that together.


[1] Some might add that balancing the fermented cider should be included, but it’s not an absolutely necessary step.

[2] Under federal law you can produce “(1) 200 gallons per calendar year for a household in which two or more adults reside, or (2) 100 gallons per calendar year if there is only one adult residing in the household” without a license. Under Pennsylvania law, “…wine may be produced by any person without a license if the wine is not produced for sale and total production does not exceed two hundred gallons per calendar year.” At this point, we don’t need a license.

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Pennsylvania Cider Consumption 1740-1790 – Maybe?

As I’ve mentioned before, one of my research interests is finding out how much cider early American farm families produced and consumed. Pennsylvania is of particular interest because I live there.

If you have any interest in Pennsylvania agricultural history you’ve probably come across James T. Lemon’s The Best Poor Man’s Country: A Geographical Study of Early Southeastern Pennsylvania. It covers everything from demographics and soil studies to crop preferences and home production. I won’t say it’s the most riveting reading, but it does touch on many of my interests, including cidering.

As part of his production discussion[1], Lemon turned to farmers’ wills from 1740 through 1790 to see what they left for their widows annual support. Among those goods listed was cider. Based on the widows’ totals Lemon extrapolated what he thought a family of five’s annual needs were, which he expressed as follows (underscoring added):

Lemon Home Production 001

This seems pretty straightforward: 2.4 barrel of cider per year for a widow and 10 barrels for a family of five per annum. However, how many gallons did one of Lemon’s barrels hold? Nowhere in the book does he indicate whether he’s using modern measurements or period measurements, such as these.

Let’s assume he’s using 31.5 gallons per barrel, which is the modern volume. In that case the totals look like this:

Widow’s Share: 2.4 barrels at 31.5 gallons per = 75.6 gallons. That comes to 26.5 ounces or 1.66 pints consumed per day.

Family of Five: 10 barrels at 31.5 = 315 gallons. That comes to 110.08 ounces or 6.9 pints consumed per day, or 1.38 pints per person per day for each of the five.

You could replace the modern 31.5 gallons with the eighteenth-century hogshead of 63 gallons which simply doubles everything. At that rate, a widow would have 3.32 pints of cider per day and each of the family of five could have 2.76 pints per day.

While there is a wide range between them, both sets of numbers are within the realm of possibility. Even though Lemon’s amounts may be variable, one thing seemingly wasn’t: widows got a little more cider every day than everybody else.


1. Chapter Six, “General Mixed Farming and Extensive Use of the Land,” 150-183.

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Update On Trader Joe’s Cyser Take 3 and Bottling the Ceres Perry

It’s been quiet at the Cydery these last few weeks because I’ve been busier drinking tasting cyder than making it and I’ve been sharing some of the cyders with interested friends. The sharing is new for me for a couple of reasons.

First, up until this spring I’ve only done one-gallon batches, which produces six pint bottles per jug. That doesn’t leave a lot to cellar and share. This spring I made a six gallon batch which amounted to 43 pint bottles – more than enough to keep some AND serve some.

Secondly, and more importantly, this is only my second year of cydering and I still feel a novice (but only because I am). It’s taken a while, but I’m finally comfortable letting other people try what I’ve made. I guess it’s a lot like writing, painting, or performing: you never really want to show anyone your first attempts for fear that your work will be laughable.

Although things have been quiet that doesn’t mean the Cydery has been inactive.

The Trader Joe’s cyser (Part III) has spent four weeks in primary fermentation and lots of lees have fallen out.


Lots of lees.

As mentioned before, I’m making this again to see if I get the thick viscous goo layer that developed during secondary fermentation last time. That cyser came out well enough, but I lost volume to the foggy bottom.

I moved the jug so I could rack it off into secondary and let it alone so the solids could settle to the bottom again. When I came back to it a few hours later it was lightly bubbling again.

IMG_0871The previous TJ cyser seems to have carbonated slightly in the bottle which meant it was still fermenting. So it’s not surprising that this is still going a little. I’m waiting until these bubbles stop before racking it. Maybe that will help prevent or limit the cloudy layer. Or maybe it won’t. These are experiments after all.

IMG_0893After six months of secondary fermentation I bottled the Ceres perry I started back in November. Like the Trader Joe’s cyser, it developed a foggy bottom, but in primary.  Since I tried not to transfer any of the goo I wound up with a lot of headspace in the jug. I didn’t fill it with water to make up the difference because I wanted to see how it came out as it was and because who wants weak perry.

We got four bottles of perfectly drinkable common perry. By drinkable I mean it wasn’t vinegar but it wasn’t the perry I expected it to be. My reaction seems to agree with one cider writer’s response to his own perry attempts:

Thus far… I’ve been underwhelmed by my own experiments with fermenting juice from dessert pears. The resulting “common perry” is drinkable enough, but seems rather thin and innocuous compared to the excellent traditional perries that are made from European bittersharp pears. [1]

Now I’m curious to try the perries I started in December, which I’m bottling next month.

As I look back over everything it appears the unfiltered juices (three of the pear juices during primary and the first TJ cyser in secondary) developed the viscous bottom layer. I wonder if they should be filtered before fermentation. Guess I’ll have to make more and see.


1. Ben Watson, Cider Hard and Sweet: History, Traditions, and Making Your Own, 3rd ed. (Woodstock, VT: The Countryman Press, 2013), 129.

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