Here is a simple way to make cider (the alcoholic stuff). This is a traditional method of cider making that produces amazing results.
We tried making our own kitchen produced cider following this stunningly simple set of instructions (see below). The results exceeded our wildest dreams and I am planning another vintage pressing this year. We use a mix of Worcester Pairmain and Cox apples from our garden.
Choosing apples for making cider
1. Remove the fruit from your apple tree and wash your apples, discarding all magotty, rotten or mouldy specimens. Do not be tempted to buy apple juice at any point. If you are going to make cider then at least go to the effort of making Cider which tastes of real apples. If you use apple juice you will be dissapointed.
Try to avoid cooking apples which really dont produce a great cider. Other than that, 'desert' apples (eating apples) are all fine. However you may find your cider is oversweet if you just use one particularly sweet variety of desert apple. If this is a problem for you, add some (about 10-20%) crab apples to the pot and you will find they bring the sweetness down very nicely, adding a tart flavour of their own which tastes fantastic.
Pulping apples for making cider
2. Pulp the apples. There are many ways of doing this. For small volumes you can use an electric kitchen juicer or a blender. The more traditional (and environmentally friendly) method is to stand above a strong bucket half full of apples and hit the apples repeatedly with a heavy object. We tried both and eventually settled on using the blender with a grater attachment so effectively we push our apples through a cheese grater. The traditional method was just too much hard work for us.
Be careful because cheaper models of blenders and juicers have very weak motors which will blow at the slightest siff of a pound of Worcester Pairmains. We went for the Magimix Le Duo Juice Extractor from John Lewis. The bigger the motoer the better.
Pressing apples for making cider
3. Now you have to press your apple pulp.
For small volumes a kitchen press such as this is fine, but if you want to make more than 2 or three gallons I suggest you invest in a bigger press. Our home made apple press consisted of four G-clamps and two pieces of old melamine board (an old kitchen work surface).
We wrap apple pulp (with all apple presses you have to pulp the apples before pressing the juice out) in cheesecloth and place it between the boards and start turning the screws. The juice drips out on all four sides into a large shallow tray.
After two years we decided that to make cider in the quantities we wanted, we would have to buy a cider press, but for your first experiments in cider making this will do just fine.
Fermenting apples for making cider
4. Pour your juice into a cleaned and sterilized wooden keg from a home brewery supply store. You should fill the keg to the top. Having an only half-full keg is apparently a sure-fire recipe for vinegar.
5. No yeast needs to be added, traditional cider making relies on wild yeasts, so remove the bung on the top of the keg to let some yeast in. The fermentation starts in 1-2 days and you will see white froth bubbling up through the bung hole. Do not panic at this point.
6. Wait for for several weeks until fermentation stops and then replace the bung
7. Leave your cider to mature for at least 8 months and then after tasting
a sip to ensure it hasn't gone horribly wrong, invite some friends round to
enjoy a strong (we got 9% alcohol) sweet and cloudy glass of traditional cider.
Remember not to drink and drive.
You can add brewers yeast at step 4 if you live in the wilds of Northern Alaska (or Cleethorpes) where there doesn't seem to be enough good yeast in the air. You can add sugar to up the alcohol content and sweetness, but start with traditional cider made the old fashioned way.
We got an email about the cloudiness of the Cider. This is actually natural, but if you really need to get rid of it, then speak to your local home brewery shop. They will probably sell you a packet of powdered fish bladder (isinglass) or horses hooves (finings) which are the traditional tools used to remove the cloudiness in beer.
I you find that a batch goes off, you may have too many dodgy yeast strains in the atmosphere. A Campden tablet (available from home brewery suppliers) will solve the problem. Add it to the next batch of apple juice and then wait two days before adding a sachet of brewers yeast. This will pretty much guarantee fermentation goes off without a hitch.
Old 2 litre plastic fizzy drinks bottles will do if you want to produce more than a barrelful of cider.