Cider-making is an old and noble tradition. You too can follow in the footsteps of Norman artisans and perform the nuanced ritual of turning fresh-picked fruit into alcohol. Or if you’re like me, you can cut a whole bunch of corners. Simpler even than using a kit to make beer, this lazy student recipe retains the fundamentals of cider-making and delivers a surprisingly good homemade hard cider.
To start you’ll need some basic equipment. Lucky for you, Montreal is home to one of Canada’s best home brewing stores, La Chope à Barrock at Villeneuve and St. Dominique. Most important is a container: either a giant glass bottle called a carboy ($28 for 23L) or a fermenting pail and lid ($20 for 23L). You’ll also need a plug and water lock to seal the container ($3), some tubing for siphoning ($3), and a handful of consumables: some no-rinse sanitizer powder ($5), 1kg of dextrose (a kind of sugar, $5), and a packet of champagne yeast ($1). The investment in all the materials will pay off if you make lots of cider.
The only other thing you need now is a lot of juice. Pick up 20L of the cheapest apple juice you can find. Any kind will work: pasteurized, clear, cloudy, artisanal, supermarket, whatever, so long as it does not contain the preservative potassium sorbate.
With the supplies in hand, you’re ready to go:
1) Follow the directions on the sanitizer powder to sterilize the container, the plug, and water lock.
2) Pour the juice in the container. While you’re doing this, mix in the dextrose: pour in half a bottle of juice, add some dextrose to the juice bottle, shake to dissolve it, and then pour in the rest of the bottle. Save one cup of dextrose.
3) Sprinkle in the champagne yeast.
4) Fill the water lock and use the plug and water lock to seal the container.
5) Wait. Over the next few days cider should start bubbling and begin to foam on the top. This is when the magic happens. The yeast is fermenting sugar into alcohol. Generation after generation of yeast will grow, feast on these sugars, and die for the glory of your booze. After about three weeks the bubbles will slow to a few per minute and a layer of dead yeast will form on the bottom. This means the yeast is almost done and you’re almost ready to drink.
6) Use the sanitizer powder to sterilize the siphon and some vessels for storing the cider. Use whatever you want—plastic jugs or pop bottles are fine. For a professional touch, you could go to Chope à Barrock and buy a bottling press ($20) and bottle caps (1000 for $5) to use empty beer bottles.
7) Siphon the cider from the big container into your bottles, leaving behind the dead yeast.
8) Boil four cups of water and dissolve your remaining cup of dextrose. Divide the sugar water between your bottles. The yeast will ferment last bit of sugar to carbonate your cider.
9) Seal the bottles. The cider is ready to drink. Over the next few weeks it will become even more carbonated.