We harvested a few buckets of asian pears from my mom’s house right after we moved into our new place in Oregon. There more things still in moving boxes than there were out of boxes, but the harvest waits for no one! If you don’t drop what you are doing to preserve now, you’ll miss your window for the season.
I decided to try another batch of hard cider, but a little different than the one from last year. That batch turned out pretty good, but I had mistakenly let the airlock dry out for a couple weeks. Also, we made it with honey as the sweetener, to boost the alcohol content, so my vegan friend couldn’t ever enjoy a bottle. This year I went with a cider yeast recommended by my local brew shop. I also sprang for some fancy Belgian brown sugar. You could smell it without even opening the bag, so it should flavor the cider nicely.
The first step was to sterilize everything: the carboy, airlock, bowls used for cider juice, etc. That part went fairly quickly and I used a concentrated sterilizing liquid from the brew shop. I didn’t want to use bleach and end up with that flavor still in the cider.
The next step was pressing some pears! That went pretty quick because we let the picked pears sit for a few days. They were nice and juicy and filled our five gallon carboy quite quickly.
Meanwhile, I slowly heated up some of the fresh juice and mixed in the sugar, stirring so it dissolved fully. I didn’t let it boil – just warmed it a bit. I added the sweetened juice to the carboy and gave it a good stir. We did not heat all of the juice, which you could do if you wanted to ensure there were no wild yeast strains in there from the fruit. Instead we just added the activated yeast to the juice and stirred a bit more.
By the next morning, that yeast was busy! We had to keep changing out the airlock because the yeast foam kept bubbling up into it. After that first day though, things have settled down and it is quietly fermenting away. We are planning to “rack” it in another week or two, then let it sit for 3-4 more weeks before bottling. We also froze some excess fresh juice, which we will add when we bottle the cider for natural carbonation.
Everything went smoothly, but the only thing I would consider changing would be the brew shop we used which was the Valley Vintner in Eugene. They were super nice and helpful when we rented the press, we scrubbed it clean for a couple hours, but then one of the workers chewed us out when we dropped it off. Without inspecting the press, he accused us of not cleaning it and told us weren’t getting any of our $500 deposit back. Shocked, I asked him to show me where it wasn’t clean. He pointed to a water drop and said he found a piece of pitch there. He then went on to actually inspect it and couldn’t find a trace of fruit anywhere else, so (without apology) we were not charged anything. Uh, thanks jerk? Normally they are nice and cool there, but this guy must have been having a bad day and decided to take it out on us.
Jay was amazed that the cider-making process was so straight-forward and simple. $25 bucks for the press rental, $6 bucks for sugar, $15 bucks for other supplies (sterilizer, mesh bag, yeast) and our five gallon carboy and airlock that we bought last year. About fifty bucks for some homemade, organic, local cider? Not to bad!