“It is indeed bad to eat apples. It is better to make them all into cider.” -Benjamin Franklin
Homebrewing is more popular than ever these days and the recipes for homebrewed beer are endless. If you are looking for a cucumber ale or a chocolate cranberry stout, odds are good that someone has a batch brewing away in their garage or corner of the rec room. While I like beer as much as the next guy, when brewing at home I don’t necessarily reach for the barley and hops. Some of my favorite home brews aren’t beer at all. While Benjamin Franklin may have been off base on the virtues of eating apples, I share his appreciation for hard apple cider.
In Colonial times, hard cider was the drink of choice. Thomas Jefferson brewed cider from apples grown at Monticello, George Washington offered cider as a reward for voting during his run for the Virginia legislature, and John Adams drank a tankard every morning, declaring it a tonic of health. By the mid-1700s, the per capita consumption of cider was over 30 gallons a year.
The popularity of hard cider dropped drastically in the years after the Civil War, as railroad distribution of easily stored grains made beer a more economical choice. Thankfully, in recent years, hard cider has slowly gained new popularity among craft brewers and wineries.
Hard apple cider is a great choice for home brewing, especially for those new to the art. It may be spiced or flavored in a variety of ways and natural additives can be used to tweak clarity, gravity and carbonation. At its simplest though, apple juice and yeast are all that’s needed to produce hard cider at home.
This recipe for DIY cider keeps it basic. Working with fresh apple juice, brewer’s yeast and a little corn sugar for carbonation, in a little over a month a cider is born. The process is simple, but take care to make sure all equipment is thoroughly cleaned before using boiling water, alcohol or commercial sanitizers.