Maple Hard Cyder

Indulge me while I wax poetic on the season:

Court of Autumn

Noble trees stand in the Court of Autumn, dressed in shades
of orange and red
Vigilant Pines act as Royal Guard, stand stiff amongst their
peers, ever green
The forest is strewn with a patchwork of color, leaves
fallen, vibrant yet dead

Cold crisp silence fills the air, a hush the order, sound the
wind would dread
Jack Frost paints his craft on window, both crystal lead and
fine silver sheen
Noble trees stand in the Court of Autumn, dressed in shades
of orange and red

Pumpkins congress across open fields, while squashes lounge
in their earthen bed
Days grow colder, nights grow longer and soon the sun will be
lesser seen
The forest strewn with a patchwork of color, leaves fallen,
vibrant yet dead

Lord Autumn dances as Summer departs, no sign yet of Old man
winter ahead
Birds process south as sheep put coats on, squirrels sleep
high bundled serene
Noble trees stand in the Court of Autumn, dressed in shades
of orange and red

I walk this path through Court of Autumn, a coat on my back,
a hat on my head
A stranger in gray traveling through color, oblivious the
visitor site unseen
Noble trees stand in the Court of Autumn, dressed in shades
of orange and red
The forest strewn with a patchwork of color, leaves fallen,
vibrant yet dead

by Kythe Szubielka (C) Sept 17,2003

Poem Style: 14th C Vilanelle w Double Couplettes


Alrighty, well with Fall comes 2 recipes I do every year: Maple Hard Cyder and my Pumpkin Stout.

Today is the Maple Hard Cyder:

I have the luck of knowing someone with 5 apple trees which are heirloom variety apples.  1 Tree is an original Delicious (not those plastic looking apples you see today), 1 tree is a Esopus Spitzenburg (rumored to be Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple) , The other two however are Macintosh and the last tree is a Harralson.  The Haralson’s are a crossbreeding of  18th Century Malinda variety with Wealthy apple variety as the likely pollen parent.

On top of this, I get to use an 18th century Cider Press to press them:

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So first we cleaned the Cider Press because it had been stored in a barn for the last 2 years.  We had used this 2 years ago when there was a bumper crop of apples.  It took us all day to process 5 wheelbarrows of apples into 17 gallons of cider.  Hard work, and we were prepared to do it again last year but the winter storms guaranteed almost no apples.  This year was a recovery year.  The trees still weren’t as full as 2 years ago but we got 3 wheelbarrows out of them this time around.

apple3 apple1 apple2

Ah the sweet taste of the fruits of our labors

Ah the sweet taste of the fruits of our labors

So of course we had to taste the first squeeze of apple juice from the press.  It was delicious!  This of course means now the bulk of the work is ahead of us before anything more can be enjoyed.  We spent most of the afternoon picking and crushing, picking and crushing until finally 3 wheelbarrows later we were done.

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WP_000417I highly support the period use of Child LaborWP_000416

 I highly support the period use of Child Labor
That looks like my 5th grade teacher Mrs Caesario

That looks like my 5th grade teacher Mrs Caesario

WP_000420  So after several hours of grinding apples and crushing them we finally strapped the two carboys into their seats and drove them back to the Inn of Bard’s Rest where they’ve been innoculated with some D-47 yeast and are bubbling away in front of my kitchen as we speak.

Is that Bachus I see?

Is that Bachus I see?

Colonial vs English Cyder:    One of the biggest arguments I’ve found is whether cider was actually pressed or boiled in Europe vs in Colonial times where we predominately find evidence of crushing as the main form of getting apple juice.  Obviously an orchard would have to make mention of a cider press before I could prove this theory (1).   Thankfully several references I’ve come across have supported the theory that crushing the apples to make cider was done both in the Colonies and in Europe.

Once all was said and done, we washed the equipment again and placed it in front of the barn where it will dry before it finally gets put away.

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Crab Apple Cider

Crab Apples as you know are usually used as a bittering or tartness agent in ciders.   Many recipes call for a small amount of them in combination with other apples to balance the flavor.  If I was using a mac, courtland or spencer, I’d be using a small amount of crab apple to balance the huge amounts of sugar these apples bring to the table.

Quite by surprise I received a 4 gallon batch of Crab Apples and since my Maple Hard Cyder isn’t being made for another month, I had to use them up or suffer the loss through rot:

4 Gal Crab Apples

10 Lb Sugar

Wyeast 4134 D47 Yeast (see note)

So after washing the apples 3 x to make sure there wasn’t any dirt, grass, leaves, hair or other nasty product,  we ran them through the Juice Tiger ™.   I got to about 4 apples before the Juice Tiger ™ jammed.  It appears it’s not so fond of stems, seeds or skins when producing juice.  So we went a different direction.  My Mother-n-law had given us a meat processor a while back:


When I put the crab apples into it, they relented and became a pulped mass.   Now I didn’t really have anyway of crushing the pulp so we decided to follow an English format of cooking the apples and then drawing off the juice from this process.  So we brought the mix to 150 and then let it hold there for 10 min to insure the bacteria and wild yeast were killed.  Then we strained the liquid out of the mix:


We did this three times to get enough liquid and on the third “sparge” we introduced 10 lbs of sugar and brought it back up to 140 degrees to incorporate the sugar in as a syrup.


Notice the nice red/brown color brought through initially.  As we continued to sparge, the brown color overtook the mix and the temperature ranged about 150 degrees.  We’re currently waiting for the mix to cool enough to pitch the yeast.

Notes on the yeast:  The store I got it from gave it to me for free. Why? Because the date was feb 2011/  We’ll try pitching it tomorrow and see what happens.  If it doesn’t take, then I’ve got my favorite old standby D47 waiting.

What are your thoughts on this?  Do you think anyone has ever made a strictly crab apple cider?  Like so many brewing projects there’s bound to be someone who only had access to these particular sugar sources and attempted to make the best of it.  We’re experimenting here and that’s part of learning the brewing process and how it affects different sugars and yeast opportunities.

Don’t be afraid to try things that are not specifically “Medieval Period” related.  If you try things outside of the box, you sometimes gain a better understanding of what the in rules require so that you can better attain your end goals.