Six things not to do while making sparkling cider
- Attempt to load 302 pounds of apples and 30 pounds of pears into your farm-wife's Toyota Yaris. You can, in fact, buy high quality apple cider without having to stand on an extra tall ladder with an apple picker for six hours. Just live in the northeast like a normal person.
- Make more cider than can reasonably fit inside a single chest freezer.
- Forget that water expands, and overfill the glass gallon jars before putting them in said chest freezer. You will end up feeling supremely stupid while straining big chunks of glass out of the defrosted cider.
- Underestimate the power of your own (previously proven) stupidity. Fun fact: even when a gallon glass jar appears to be unbroken- like when the cracks on the inside of the jar don't go all the way through and it holds a gallon of liquid cider without leaking - it might still shatter when you open it due to an expansion of gas. Bonus fun fact: when the bottom of a gallon jug of cider falls out and you're holding it at chest height, it is possible to make a mess rivaling a tomato-swamp. Also, you might not notice until the next day at work that you've still got apple cider on your shoes.
- Use a gallon vinegar jug to carbonate cider. The flip-top doesn't provide a good enough seal for carbonation to happen, and you'll just end up sad and disappointed.
- Have easily annoyed roommates. This one I actually managed to avoid- in addition to the glass-and-cider mopping incident, my roommie has put up with my getting weird frozen apple gunk all over the inside of her freezer and waking her up at 6:17 am because I was making a racket in the kitchen carbonating cider. And that was just this week! Apparently, she has just come to expect such things from me, because she was spectacularly nonplussed.
All of that aside, if you're not a monumental idiot, making sparkling cider at home is almost unbelievably easy. It takes two ingredients, four minutes of actual work and will knock the socks off of anybody who likes apples. Starting with good cider (and not needing to cook it) effectively elevates Martinellis' from the sad, child-and-Mormon knockoff champagne that it is into something independently worthwhile and effervescent. So if you live somewhere with cider, I am going to have to insist that you stop everything you're doing and make this now.
Hopefully, you're smarter than I am.
Sparkling Apple Cider
Basic recipe from here, above suggestions my own.
One gallon high-quality apple cider
1/4 tsp champagne yeast (LINK)
2 empty 2-liter soda bottles, cleaned thoroughly
Dissolve the champagne yeast in ~1/2 cup of cider. I often find this requires me to microwave the cider for 30-60 seconds, but try to minimize the heat: cider is actually defined by not having been cooked (did you know this? Does everyone know this?).
Divide the yeast/cider mixture between the two bottles, and then fill the rest of the way. You do need to leave a little head space- basically, just fill the bottle to the place it would have been filled with soda. Stash the bottles somewhere at room temperature.
The cider is done when the bottle feels very hard to the touch- for me, this has taken around 24 hours consistently, but it could go faster or slower depending on your house temperature. Refrigerate immediately, drink within a couple days, and make sure to open the bottle slowly over the sink.