DIY Hard Cider

Cider Apples
Cider Apples
Chelsea Pomales

I love hard cider, and after learning that most Americans used to make it at home, I decided to try it myself. I set my sights on a traditional English-style, dry cider—what most people would have been making a century ago—seasoned (since it's the holidays) with mulling spices. Following the instructions in my home-brewing bible, True Brews: How to Craft Fermented Cider, Beer, Wine, Sake, Soda, Mead, Kefir, and Kombucha at Home by Emma Christensen (Ten Speed, 2013), I combined apple juice with the yeast, then added more juice and honey, along with yeast nutrient and pectic enzymes to help the fermentation along. Then in went my seasonings: vanilla beans, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and orange zest. I poured the mixture into a gallon-sized jug, attached an airlock (an inexpensive piece of home brewing gear that allows carbon dioxide to escape and keeps oxygen out) and let the mixture ferment for a month. Over the weeks, I watched, excited, as the yeast popped and fizzed, rising and sinking back down again. Every couple of days, I siphoned the cider off and strained it. Then, after a month, using a funnel, I poured my creation into sanitized beer bottles and clamped them shut with bottle caps. Hard apple cider can age in its own bottle for up to one year, but after tending to mine for a month, I was eager for my first sip, and soon cracked one open. My cider combined the flavors of a crisp white wine with the warm scent of cloves, cinnamon, orange, and apple. In the blink of an eye, the bottle was empty. I started on the next batch right away—this first round wasn't going to last long.