Last night I made pear cider for the first time and it was a blast. It seems a little early in the season for pears, but they have started dropping all over town so we figured it was time to kick off cider season. Let me try to reconstruct the process.
My buddy Ethan (hey Ethan!) and I decided to make a double batch which would fill two 6-gallon carboy containers. To spare you the math of how many bushels yields 12 gallons of juice and how many buckets equals one bushel, we decided to pick about 9-10 buckets of fruit. Most of the fruit ended up being asian pears that had fallen from the trees at the Urban Farm, although there were some european pears in there and a few apples to boot.
Get the Gear:
We picked the cider press up at our friendly, local brew shop. It was $25 bucks to rent for about 24 hours and it was much larger than I imagined. I admire the old dude that came up with this crazy contraption – it worked like a charm.
Basically, there is not much prep. The fruit took a bath when we got home to clean off all the dirt. We also looked the pears over to discard thick, woody stems. The fruit stem is okay, but we wanted to keep the woody stems and their tannins out of our juice.
The sun had set by the time we began, but with beer in hand we started operating heavy machinery (Disclaimer: I don’t necessarily recommend this… but we sure enjoyed it). The motor was running as buckets of pears rolled down the shoot to be roughly chopped. A cheesecloth sack lined the wooden bucket underneath, where the chopped fruit fell into.
Once full, the bucket moves to the opposite end of the machine where the crank is, which is where the “pressing” part comes in. We had a large stock pot positioned at the end and took turns turning the crank to press all the delicious, organic pear juice out.
Feed the Compost:
After pressing, we were left with these little cakes of juiceless pear pulp. I peeled back the cheesecloth and discarded the used fruit into the compost bin. At the end of the night, I gave it a good stir so the fruitflies couldn’t reach exposed fruit bits.
The juice was then funneled into the carboys, leaving a little room at the top. They were filled to about the point when the carboy begins to taper in.
Taking a break from pressing, we fired up the oven to heat some juice with six pounds of honey until well blended. This sweetened the mixture and allows the yeast plenty to eat. Once blended, we set a ladle full of the mixture aside to cool and added the rest to the carboy. We did this twice, since we were filling two carboys (each carboy getting juice and six pounds of honey).
The ladle of juice was allowed to cool down to 98-ish degrees, at which time we added our yeast. We let the mixture sit for about 15 minutes, as instructed on our champagne yeast packet. This was then added to the carboy. Again, we did this part twice since we are using two carboys and making a double batch. We gave them a swirl to incorporate the yeast into the juice.
The rubber stopper and fermentation lock were positioned and the carboys are now resting under my kitchen table, wrapped snugly in a blanket. This protects them from the light and ensures they stay warm – not hot, but just toasty.
Phase I: Complete.
All in all, everything took about 3 1/2 hours for two people working in the dark and drinking through the process. We ended up with two full, six gallon carboys which will sit for a couple weeks. After that time we “rack” them, which means we siphon the liquid into new carboys leaving the sediment at the bottom of the current containers.
I’m not exactly sure what happens after that. I think more sitting. Then we bottle them and add a little more fresh juice. The mixture then goes through a third fermentation process in the bottle, as the yeast eats this newly added sugar (juice). That process creates carbonation that can’t escape and therefore adds natural carbonation to our cider.
I’m pretty damn excited and think we’ll end up with possibly 100 pints of cider in a month or so. I’ll keep you posted on the next phase in two weeks. It was really a kick in the pants to operate this wooden contraption and we might just get our hands on more pears late next week and make some more. Old man winter won’t be able to keep us cold this winter!