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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Cider Saturday: Make Your Own

Rack and Cloth, washed by the last sun of summer.
This past weekend, I made my way down the Gorge on what seems now like an impossibly warm, sunny day for some cider-sampling and juice-buying.  In a leisurely afternoon, you can easily begin your day at Fox-Tail, where I recommend especially Docklands (one of the nicer ciders in Oregon) and Apfelwein.  I expect you'll find fouler weather than I did, but never mind--their tasting room is cozy.  About a mile down the road, you can stop in at the Gorge White House, where they specialize in pear juice (with both a nice perry and an apple-pear cider).  The White House has a food truck with great burgers, so it's also a good lunch stop.

But the place I really want to direct you, especially over the next month, is Draper Girls Farm--about eight miles down past Fox-Tail (driving away from Hood River).  Theresa Draper has nine acres of apple trees, and has planted some nice heirloom cultivars like Spitzenburg, Black Twig, Gravenstein, Harrison, Northern Spy, Winter Banana, and others (and she's recently planted classics like Yarlington Mill and Kingston Black).  She presses the apples herself and makes a rough blend (depending on what's ripe) that includes acid varieties and then sells the juice, unpasteurized, by the gallon.  I picked up three gallons, brought it home, dumped it in the carboy, and this is what's going on now:

I have no idea whether it will be tasty or not, but I love the idea that juice will just ferment itself.  (After some dangerously warm temps the first couple days, the juice has settled down to the mid-fifties.  I may yet be making vinegar, but we'll see.)  If you are feeling less adventuresome, you could always just pitch yeast.  I gotta tell you, pouring three gallons of juice into a carboy and adding a fermentation lock is a whole lot easier than brewing.

I'll let you know how it's coming.

Update.  I was out raking leaves and found the yeast activity evolving.  I have no idea whether this is good or bad, but it sure is exotic.  Have a look.


  1. You definitely have some wild shit in there. I have seen some of these turn out really well, but expect it to take a long time. Also you are very likely to get malolactic fermentation in there after a few months. Racking it off the lees (don't do it in a week or so, homebrew style; anything with fruit is going to continue throwing off pulpy bits for a long time) will probably cause a secondary fermentation to start, and that can take a while to finish.

    The reaction to convert booze to vinegar requires oxygen, so you won't make vinegar unless you really want to. If there's enough CO2 production to make a layer above your fermenting must, you'll be fine. however, take extra care when racking because it will be very sensitive to oxidation, especially without any sulfite in there. Oxidation can turn apple juice turd-brown in a hot second.

    Purge with CO2 if you're especially worried about it. Make sure it's not in direct sunlight either.

  2. Oh yes, definitely wild shit. Since I didn't pitch anything, I expected and wanted wild shit. I also intend to let it sit over the winter, a practice I watched the English employ to great success. (They were orchardists and knew their fruit--and also had been doing natural fermentation for decades, so there's that subtle difference.)

    Any suggestions about racking? I thought a month, but things started warmer than I wanted--though now we're down to some nicer temps and I think the cider's between 50-55. It's a good point you make about the oxidation, so I'll want it to still be in relatively active fermentation, since I'll be going to another 5-gal carboy with three gallons of cider.

    Sun is bad? I'm interested to know about this. I figured I was golden since I had no iso-alphas to worry about.