Introducing our latest homebrew endeavor - Naughty or Nice Holiday Cider. After discovering some fantastic, very sessionable English style craft ciders this past year we were interested to tackle the feat ourselves. With the Midwest, and Michigan in particular having unfortunately sparse apple crops this year, finding fresh apple cider without preservatives proved to be quite a challenge.
After stalking many Chicago farmers markets we finally found success during a visit to VerHages Fruit Farm and Cider Mill in Kalamazoo, MI. Fresh cider was being pressed on site. It was fascinating to watch just how natural and simple the process still remains.
Our recipe included: 4 gallons of unpasteurized fresh apple cider4 cups sugar (dissolved in 1 gallon cider heated to 165)12oz fresh cranberries (flash boiled in 1 cup sugar dissolved in 1 cup water for 5 minutes to pop the skins and help release sugar)Nutmeg Ale Yeast versus Champagne yeast (which I was not a fan of as it seems to bring the flavor closer to wine than cider in my opinion). An Ale yeast would potentially bring more flavor and also work harder on all of those fermentable sugars projecting a ABV of 7-8%, nearly double your typical cider.Campden tabs (1 per gallon)The cider fermented for a week and was filtered into secondary to discard of the cranberries. Some additional nutmeg as well as clarifier were added. After three weeks in a secondary fermenation the cider was unbelievably clear but the flavor had become substantially dry and tart. We decided to back sweeten, which also served as a primer for bottling with 1 can of 100% apple juice concentrate which worked quite well to balance out the tartness.(OG: 1.050/FG: 1.000)
Any further questions on specifics, feel free to reach out and ask. Managing the sugar and controlling the residual sweetness was definitely more challenging than expected and resources were much more limited than with beer recipe forums and books. I learned the most by asking fellow brewers and experimenting throughout the process.
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