I must have known something was up, as the previous day I worked (and froze) in the garden to put the finishing touches on winter-bedtime. We also picked the fall carrots that were outside the coldframe. Not very impressive, but it is a harvest, and they will be excellent in The Kitchen Goddess's mirepoix for the Thanksgiving turkey, just a few days away!
And now, in the spirit of Harvest Monday where it's not just what you pick, but how you use it, I will show you how we finished processing the apples picked in September.
In my post of 30 September, I showed how we crushed and pressed 5 bushels of our apples, and put the cider into fermenting buckets. About a week or two after that, we siphoned the buckets into glass carboys for secondary fermentation. Today, it was time to bottle!
Here is what the fermented cider looks like:
First thing is to wash and sanitize the bottles. A clean dishwasher makes a handy rack for draining them. We use longneck beer bottles--the best kind of recycling! No screw-tops of course.
All your other equipment has to be cleaned and sanitized too, even the bottlecaps. Then prepare some priming mixture. This is just brown sugar in water, heated to a boil. This is what will give the cider its sparkle, as it slightly reactivates the small amount of yeast left, whose sediment you can see at the bottom of the carboys above.
Then siphon the cider from the carboy to the bottling bucket (just a primary fermenter with a spigot).
Then, it's just a matter of filling the bottles:
And capping them!
Of course, you can label them for fun. This is the second year of our "Chucky" label, this year commemorating the maurading woodchuck who met his demise. The first year's label (still a few bottles left) is in the center, flanked by this year's.
We also bottled our plum wine (plums from a friend's tree), and the small amount of wine we got from our wretched grape harvest. All told, 3+ liters of plum wine, 1+ liter of grape wine (note the classy name--"Black Rot Wine"), and 98 bottles of hard cider. Here it is on parade:
Now it all has to age. Last year the cider did not mature and develop carbonation for a number of months, but when it did, it was outstanding (it was pretty good to start with). We have high hopes for this year.
If you ever want to make your own hard cider, either with your own apples, or with apples or soft cider you purchase, here is a great concise article from Mother Earth News.
With that, I wish the Daphne's Dandelions community Happy Thanksgiving! Even if you're not from the U.S.!