From harvest to table ~ what's cooking now?

This blog shows where all those garden goodies I grow end up. I call this little eating area next to the stove my "chef's table" because at all the best restaurants it's a privilege to be invited to dine in the kitchen where the chef reigns supreme. So here I am "reigning" and you are all invited. :-D

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Big day in the basement

As you saw from yesterday's post, fermentation in the big pail had ceased (well, technically, it ran out of sugars to process, so they stalled).

Time for racking out to glass jugs for the secondary ferment.

In the primary ferment, everything goes great guns, gushing and slushing.  A really rough cider is created - probably harsh and not tasty they say.

Now, however, secondary (and, perhaps even a third) ferment will take time and slowly transform the cider into something a lot more refined.

So, Igor!  To the basement.

First we cleaned, then sanitized all the equipment.  (Joy...)

I've been reading a lot and following the homebrew cider forum for weeks.  I kinda knew what to expect.  And I'm always learning stuff.  Like, Sunday I just KNEW I wanted to add an auto-siphon and bottle wand to my equip collection, so first thing Monday, Frankenstorm or not, I went down to the brew shop.  (Priorities!)

OK.  Time to siphon into sanitized jugs.  First thing I noticed was that the cider wasn't dark brown anymore, but decidedly golden.  Nice.

I was afraid that the siphon would suck in to much of the lees (dregs) because I couldn't see through the white pail to know how deep they were,  so I lowered a small sieve into the pail and rested the siphon on it for the 1st 3 jugs.  Then, for the last jug, I was more in control so just held the siphon up above where I thought the dregs were and watched carefully.

They advise you to sacrifice more rough cider than you want to, but it's the only way to prevent the lees from messing up your next ferment.  In the end there was a full GALLON left in the pail.  *sigh*

Next came popping bubbler airlocks into the jugs, then setting the jugs in a nice safe place for whatever time it takes for the yeast to work its magic.  To that effect I set up a bit of a table against a far basement wall, lined up the jugs, then (using a metal clothes rack) I draped them with a nice white tablecloth.   Hey ho.

One thing about that 'rough' cider.  The initial reading was for a 6% alcohol potential for the juice.  I can affirm most assuredly that there is at least 6% alcohol in this batch.  Trust me.  LOL  The cider is a little tart (I'd added some citric acid) and it doesn't have any yeasty taste.  Does it taste like apples?  Hard to say.  Without any sugar in the mix, it's not really apparent.  But it doesn't taste unpleasant at all, so I've got good hopes for the final product.  Now it's a waiting game (and time to do more reading up).

And - oh oh oh - just as I was draping the tablecloth over the jug table, I happened to look at the end jug -- just as IT GAVE UP ITS FIRST BUBBLE!   Yay!  We're off to the races!

Meanwhile, there is just a liiiiiiiitttttlllle bit more sample cider left in the primer cup.  Well, waste not, want not.


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Friday, October 26, 2012

Bubble, bubble

3 days of ferment

4 days of ferment
5 days ferment

Very appropriate - considering Halloween is just around the corner.

Looks like the yeast nutrient is doing its job.  By day 5 it's really going strong with nearly an inch of thick foam on top.   There is no bad odor - only the smell of ripe apples.

I never know what I'll see when I lift the cover (pressing bag) every day.

IGOR!  Come quick!   It's .... ALIVE!!!    Woohaha.

Day 6 - something new!

The yeast must have digested all the sugar into alcohol - it has stopped foaming and the suds have sunk to the bottom.

Tomorrow (Sandy willing) I will rack to secondary gallon jugs.

6 days ferment - foam falling

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ooops! Missed an ingredient!

Wow.  2 posts in one morning! :-D

For some reason or other I had earlier decided to forgo adding yeast nutrient to the juice.

Don't know why.

So now that I had a tub of juice fermenting away from yesterday, I reconsidered and high-tailed myself down to the friendly neighborhood brewing supply shop and bought a jar.   "No biggie," he said.  "It's not too late to add it to the juice."  *whew*  No harm, no foul.

So I did, adding 4.5t of nutrient to 4.5 gallons of juice.  The nutrients add nitrogen, oxygen and other things that don't FEED the yeast, but ENABLE the yeast to grow better - like vitamins.

After sprinkling in the nutrient, I stirred the juice with a sterilized plastic spoon.  You can see how much yeast has developed in just 18 hours of pitching it.  Wow.  Stuff is HAPPENING in there!  I covered it back up to do it's thing some more.

Here's a pic of my cider setup in the basement.  The bucket of ferment should be racked into gallon 2nd ferment jugs within a week and I can clear the table then.  After all, that's my laundry table and eventually I'll run out of clothes.  *heh*

I'm lucky enough to not only have TWO brewing supply shops within a couple of miles, but even closer is a food supply store where they sell new and used restaurant utensils and supplies.  The white tub and the 8-quart lidded container are food grade plastic and will serve me well in this experiement.

As for the half-gallon jar of liquid?  That is a 1-step sani mix (1/2T to 1/2 gallon).  EVERYthing gets washed, dried and then doused in this no-rinse sanitizer.  I'd made some earlier to sanitize the pail, etc a couple of days ago, then dumped the rinse down the drain.  But the man at the shop said he uses his for a month, then dumps it.  Gee - now THAT's useful info.  I can make a batch of 1-step at the start of cider making and the rinse will last up to and including disinfecting everything needed for the 1st racking into jugs.  That'll save time (quick rinses for things like thermometers, hydrometers, spoons, etc. need occasionally) and $ (for rinsing out jugs, lids, racking cane, tubes, airlocks, etc.).

Anyway - that's all for today.  I shouldn't have to do anything more downstairs until maybe the weekend.  Check back then...

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Bucket list

Nine times out of ten, the first time you try something new it is confusing, hard and/or a complete disaster.

Thing is, with cider, you won't know until weeks/months later just how far south things may have gone.

On Tuesday I pretty much followed the plan laid out in that morning post, but with some hiccups.

It's a simple process:

Sterilize everything.

Pour sweet cider (or apple juice) into pail.

Measure potential alcohol.

Start yeast in a glass.

Add yeast to juice.

Cover and wait for 4-7 days for the primary fermentation to process.

Having said that, it's been an uphill learning experience today.

I poured out the sweet cider into the pail.  4 gallon jugs filled the pail to the 4.5 gal mark.  Yay? (Note: next time let juice come up to room temp.)

Floated the hydrometer.  No probs there.  (Ignorance is bliss?)

I started the yeast in a glass.  (Note: next time - bigger glass, more sugar.) Even so, you can see in the pic that the yeast really took off around the 3-hour mark.

Three hours into the 4-hour yeast proof, I added pectic enzyme to the juice (it needs to be added 1 hour before adding yeast).  The enzyme helps settle out all the micro bits of apple pulp so the final cider is a clear amber vs the opaque brown that you start with.

I saw that the  pail was sweating like crazy from condensation.  I took the temp of the juice - only 49F!  Not good.  Too cold for the yeast.  Crap.

I dipped out 2 quarts of juice and heated it to 160F on the stove then  added it back.  Temp came up to 66F.  MUCH better.  (Good for temp.  Bad for process?  *sigh*  We'll see.)

Finally, at the 4-hour mark, I "pitched the yeast" as they say (poured yeast into juice).  And that was that.

I covered the pail with the cheesecloth, crossed my fingers and turned out the light.

I'll check on it every day and take pics.  

I did not add any sugars to the juice.  The juice was already too sweet to my liking and hope that fermentation will add some snap to the mix.

Anyway, I'm just as glad I've got DAYs until the next step. I'm cream crackered as the Brits say. 

Stay tuned.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Apple interuptus

Now, where was I?

Oh yeah, trying to make cider.

After the first effort of juicing my own apples (big waste of time and effort - see previous cider post), I've elected to start with bottled sweet cider.

Saturday, buddy Dave and I went to Hartville where the apple-monger still had half-bushels of 2nds for $5.  Great.  There are more golden delicious in the box than I wanted, but - hey ho - it was all he had that day.   These are earmarked for applesauce so I can always add citric acid if the sauce gets too sweet.

But the big buy was 4 gallons ($7/each!) of sweet apple cider (pasteurized only, no additives at all).  I'm going to use it in my big CIDER EXPERIMENT.

Meanwhile, back at the lab, there are more pieces of equipment on the table.

Since I decided to make 4 gallons (instead of 2) I bought 2 more gallon glass jugs/lids/plugs/airlocks.  I also ponied up for the 6-gallon food-grade primary fermentation pail.  (I decided to quit nickel - diming this project.)

Also new: beaker to float the hydrometer,  and a bottle brush).

And remember that half-gallon of wild free-range apple juice that I DID manage to press myself and then froze?  Well, I'm going to heat pasteurize it myself and then ferment it separately.  To that effect I'm going to use a half-gallon canning jar as a jug, so I drilled a hole in the metal lid to fit a plug/airlock.  Neato, huh?

So today I start this circus.

I'll wash/sterilize the fermentation pail and cheesecloth cover, hydrometer (and beaker if I need it).  Clean clean clean.

Then I'll use the hydrometer to measure the gravity (sugar content) of the juice to give me a guesstimate of the potential alcohol of the lot.

(Oh, and I've decided, since the bottled cider has been heat pasteurized (no labeling that it was UV pasteurized) I'm going to NOT use any campden tablets in the pail.  There shouldn't be any wild yeasts to kill, and the less campden tablets, the less sulfites in the finished product.)

Then I'll activate the yeast (EC - 1118 a yeast good for mead and cider)  in a glass and when it's going strong, I'll pour it ("pitch") into the juice, stir, cover, and leave the pail in the basement to ferment for a week.  (I've learned cider wants COOL temps to ferment at 40-60F which prevents loss of flavors).

In fact, I'm going to set up the whole experiment IN the basement where temps are usually between 55 and 60 year round. Perfect cider conditions.

Time to start sterilizing.

Stay tuned.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pulp friction

Well, I set aside Wednesday to see if I could do anything useful with that half-bushel of apples (previous post).

I had no pulper, so I quartered up the washed fruit and blitzed it in the food processor.  What a PAIN.  You have to cut the apples slices small enough to get into the safety chute.

I took the blitzed fruit and, again, mimicking some blogs, I made up 'pillows' of pomace (smashed fruit) using 2 layers of cheesecloth.  I ended up with 4 pillows.

Meanwhile, down in the basement, I jerry-rigged a press using a (newly acquired for the purpose) 4-ton bottle jack.  I built the 'press' in one of the basement doorways.  (I really need a keeper!)

Then I laid the pillows on an inverted stainless steel colander and started pumping the jack.

In theory, this should have worked.  But there were flaws in the system.  I had had to use a 3x3 stud to span the gap from the jack to the top of the door frame.  It was, alas, inherently 'wobbly' and with the soft fruit under the press, the jack tended to tip.  So I couldn't really apply as much pressure as I needed.

At the end of the day, I was tired and not very happy with this little venture.

The kitchen was half compost pile and half junk yard (as it seemed I had to use most anything BIG that I owned).

And the final result for all that?

Just over 2 measly quarts!!  There was another 3C from a previous juicing without the press, but I was so tired after THAT fiasco, I just drank it all.... :-/

Darn.  There's not enough juice here to make cider, that's for sure, so I just bagged it up and put it into the freezer.

I still want to make fizzy cider, but now my quest is for a couple of gallons of fresh pressed local cider that has been pasteurized and contains no yeast-killing additives.

Yeah -- like THAT's going to be any easier to find!

About the only good thing right now is - the house smells like an apple orchard.

Oh well -- onward....!

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Monday, October 8, 2012

Windfall apples

I bought a half-bushel of mixed windfall apples at Hartville market for $5.00; a nice mix of golden delicious, braeburn, macintosh, couple of jonathans, etc.  I figured these should make up some nice sauce.

But, really? Applesauce?  Again?

Hey, it's been a stressful summer.

Why not try something ... different?

Oh, now THIS should be fun.

Stay tuned.

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