It was just two years ago this week that I started my first cyders. It began because the museum I work at holds a Harvest Day event every October and one of the farmers, who had been pressing apples, asked if I wanted any raw juice. I said yes, thinking maybe I would finally try one of the eighteenth-century receipts I had. Who knows, I thought, maybe it’ll be drinkable.
Such are the humble origins of Pommel Cydery.
And so two years and one more Harvest Day later another cyder season begins. This year’s first cyders are encores of previous experiments.
I was beginning to despair of ever finding fresh pear juice and was about to give up on making perry. But then, by chance, I saw that a local orchard was selling locally-grown, fresh-pressed, and unpreserved pear juice. So the experiment is happily renewed.
My previous perries were store-bought juice and pitched yeast. The resulting drink was thin and bland. This time I decided to add a little light brown sugar, enough to raise the potential ABV to almost 9%. Not all of the sugars in pear juice are fermentable, so it’s likely that the final ABV will be less than 9%, even if it ferments out fully. Either way, hopefully this one will be better than its predecessors.
Earlier this year I made a honey and wheat cyder (cyser, really, since it used honey). It was based on an eighteenth-century receipt which didn’t specify how much of each to use. I chose to put in a very small amount of honey and wheat. So small in fact, that they probably had no effect on the final content. That cyser came out similar to a dry white wine and at about 6%, which is generally what unaided apple juice will ferment to. Clearly I didn’t add enough honey.
Using a gallon of raw juice from this year’s Harvest Day pressing, I added half a pound of wildflower honey and 2 oz. of wheat flower. The hydrometer reading came out to a potential ABV of 6.5%, lower than I wanted. So I added the rest of the honey, bringing it to a possible 8.5%.
Within twelve hours the pear juice was fermenting away with large, airy bubbles. The honey wheat cyser took almost twenty four to get going. Both are covered by cheese-cloth for now to provide enough air for the yeast to multiply and grow. In a day or so the cloth will be replace by vodka-filled air locks.
These are only the first cyders of the season. I plan to make additional varieties, focusing on eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century styles. Among other things, this means fermenting with raw (or as close as possible) juice and natural yeasts. I’m not pitching lab yeast because science is nice and all, but Pommel Cydery’s mission is to experiment with history.