An introduction to cider making!

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As fall quickly approaches, heralded in by an early September snow fall, you may notice that the apple trees around the city are heavy with fruit. If you are familiar with OFRE’s mission and take part in it, you know there is more fruit available than you could possibly use. Even walking my dog around my neighbourhood in North Glenora I have seen at least a dozen trees still full.

While big juicy apples are perfect for eating or baking, many of the apples trees around Edmonton are crab apple trees. Crab apples are too sour to eat and too small to make pies with, but they are perfect for one thing, and that’s cider! Crisp tart cider, tossed it in the crock pot with some spices and you have one of my favourite winter drinks, mulled cider.

If you ever thought making cider was hard, you’re wrong; it’s simple, fun and inexpensive.

apples for cider

cider press
Here’s what you’ll need:

  • a mix of different varieties of apples
  • an apple crusher
  • a press

The key to a good cider is the choice of apples. While any apple can make a good cider, a good mix of a variety is key. I prefer ciders heavy on the crap apples because I like a tart cider. I’ve made a cider with only sweeter apples and I found it flat and too sweet for my palate. Try making your own blends until you find what tastes best to you.

Next you’ll need a lot of apples, for every 15-20 kg of apples you can expect 10L of cider. If you consider that an average tree can have well over 100 kg, that’s not a lot of work.

To transform your apples into a delicious cider you’ll need an apple crusher and a press. You can either rent this equipment or make it yourself. There are several blogs that provide instructions on creating different DIY models. I prefer renting the equipment as I find you get more juice (and it’s a whole lot easier). While I’m sure there may be other places you can pick up the equipment, I usually head over to Estate Brewing where owner Kevin Hogg has a few sets of crushers and barrel presses and will be happy to show you the ins and outs.

The actual crushing and pressing is pretty easy. The Cider Workshop is an excellent resource and can give you advice on how to press cider. Likewise there are numerous other blogs which give good advice.

Once you’re done pressing and before you call it a day, you will need to get rid of the pressed apples (called pumice) and store your cider. The pumice can be left out in clear garbage bags and it will be composted at the Edmonton Waste Management Facility. As for the cider, it will last a week in the fridge before it starts to ferment. If you want it keep it longer, you can simply freeze it or preserve it through canning. Read about: Preserving Fruit Juices and Apple Cider from Oregon state University

Cider pressing is easy and it gives you a healthy, locally sourced drink that you can enjoy throughout the winter.