Monday, October 11, 2010

foraged, crushed, and fermenting

Yesterday was spent outside in the sunshine pressing thirty gallons of cider with good friends. It was the start of a new tradition here in the wilds of Veryork. Myself, and my guy friends James and Tyler dedicated some of our weekend to a very old-school way of copping a buzz: learning to make alcohol from pressed apple mash. This is my initiating into the cult of home brewing—my sponsor is hard cider.

We started Saturday morning, collecting apples off the scrub orchard I inherited with the farm. After pheasant hunting and before herding lessons we gathered all we could around Cold Antler. Between the trees on the side of the road and what was left of the apples in my pasture (so many went to feed the sheep and goat. Which will not be happening next year!) we were able to collect about two bushels. But two bushels does not a pressing-work-party make, so James hit up the back roads of Peru and Londonderry and was able to nearly fill the back of his dad's truck with several varieties of feral apples. Through some slick foraging we were able to collect enough fruit to keep us busy for hours, and we didn't spend a dime. Not a bad deal.

We arrived with our apples (and dogs) at our friend Dave's house. Dave is a modern backwoods MacGyver. He can figure out how to make or fix anything, and often does. Back in the eighties he bought a giant apple grinder/cider press for $200 from an old NY state orchard. The giant machine was built in 1865, and with some work on his part it was now looking brand new and working like a song. He rebuilt the wood frame, painted it, and had mineral-based oil moving around the fly wheel and gears. The beast had a big hungry bucket on top: the maw for our road kill.

For two hours we created a mini factory right there in his backyard. We ground, pressed, poured, strained, and bottled the sweet cider. We filled the keg that Dave tricked out with a spigot and strainer, and when it got too full, we emptied it into plastic and glass car boys. I couldn't take the temptation and filled some quart jars and drank right there on the job in-between cranking the press and grinding apples. Then Dave cracked open a bottle of 1987 vintage, and MAN did it have a kick to it. We nipped the hard cider as we worked, making us a little more limber and silly. I could not believe how fast and fruitful the day's labors were: so much cider sitting in the October sunlight.

I brought my fiddle, since Dave is also a string sawer. Together we'd take brakes to play alone or together, the twangy sounds of our strings under the trees. It was nice to practice when the work grew slower. Gibson and his setter friend Ellie played and ran about. Bill (Dave's friend and fellow ciderteer) told stories and we learned each other's histories. We made plans to add more apples and potluck foods to next year's pressing. I'm already making plans for it! Before I headed home Dave gifted me a bottle of his 2008 homebrew, and I thanked him with a big smile. Now that I understood how much effort and science went into that gift, it meant the world to me.

Our cider will be ready around New Years. A long time to wait, but well worth it. Between then and now it will bubble with the five pounds of honey we're putting in each fermentor. We'll transport it to growlers and bottles and then it will be ready to serve. Homemade hard cider to ring in the new, and new lambs!

Now I have the home-brewing itch. I'm looking into some easy 2-3 week kit beers. I can't believe how easy and inexpensive it is, and how satisfying it is making your own libations. Even without taking a sip, I am hooked. This winter will not be boring, not by a long shot. Cold Antler Brewery is in the works! Cheers!

photos by tyler atkins

29 Comments:

Blogger 6512 and growing said...

I love community work days - ours usually take place around butchering elk and deer.

Speaking of apples, I am in the process of making "fruit scrap vinegar" with some foraged apples via the book "Wild Fermentation" by Sandor Ellis Katz. It's bubbling...

Good luck with your hard cider.

October 11, 2010 at 4:34 PM  
Blogger Cindy said...

Jenna, you look and sound like a girl who has found her people! Enjoy these October days!! Your Cold Antler Farm is making you bloom!! Suck it all in and keep in your barnheart!

October 11, 2010 at 4:41 PM  
Blogger John Gray jgsheffield@hotmail.com said...

great blog!!!

October 11, 2010 at 4:59 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

DOn't forget wines, too! Last spring I made dandelion wine and this summer bottled my first pear wine. Both are delicious even though they are still "new" wine, and should be even better in a few more months. Yes, it's nice to have put by some hootch for the cold winter months....something to remind you of your spring or summer crop, keeping you warm while you're inside by the fire!

October 11, 2010 at 5:32 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

I may be wrong, and check with your brewing experts, but you may have started a batch of cyster, rather than hard cider. Cyster, as I understand it, is fermented from honey + apple cider - basically it's considered a variant of mead. But hard cider vs. cyster may come down to the ratio of sugars.

October 11, 2010 at 5:44 PM  
Blogger SWEETHEARTS MOM said...

Plan on buying some hop roots to start on the farm. Hops can not only be used to make home brew but has other uses as well.

October 11, 2010 at 7:23 PM  
Blogger SWEETHEARTS MOM said...

Plan on buying some hop roots to start on the farm. Hops can not only be used to make home brew but has other uses as well.

October 11, 2010 at 7:23 PM  
Blogger SWEETHEARTS MOM said...

oh and...that sounds like an anual event that could grow pretty big and end with a huge New Years party

October 11, 2010 at 7:25 PM  
Blogger Alicia said...

Oh, that cider will so be worth the wait. It looks like you have found your place and people in Veryork :).

October 11, 2010 at 7:30 PM  
Blogger Andy said...

That is more fun than going to a bar. On a nice autumn from collecting, making and drinking cider. Plus, just fiddle around.

I just made a simple recipe for mead last month. Now I have to wait until March or April to taste it.

October 11, 2010 at 7:54 PM  
Blogger Kathleen Stoltzfus said...

I am going to try my hand at mead this year while my friend is going to try hard cider. Should be interesting which we like better. I may also try making mead with a bit of added cider. Yes, new years should be interesting this year!

October 11, 2010 at 7:56 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

The apple cider sounds delicious.

My hubby is a homebrewer...and is it WONDERFUL! Won't take long before you catch the bug - and beer doesn't have to ferment quite as long (in most situations). He does all-grain brewing & can have a beer ready to drink in a month (using CO2 to carbonate). Yummmm.

Have fun!

October 11, 2010 at 9:07 PM  
Blogger Toni aka irishlas said...

If you want a quick home brew, try out the "Betty Crocker" of beer kits, Mr. Beer. My husband brews with this and some of them are quite tasty!

October 11, 2010 at 10:11 PM  
Blogger Erica said...

Just looked up cyster and found this guy's blog describing his process, and the differentiation. Wow- I think I could really like living in New England. ::sigh::
http://selfsufficienturbanite.blogspot.com/2007/11/hard-cider-in-bulk.html

Loved your post and can't wait to hear how it turns out!!

October 11, 2010 at 10:20 PM  
Blogger EAG said...

Cold Antler Brewery! I love it!

October 11, 2010 at 11:09 PM  
OpenID canttalkdyeing said...

Psh, don't bother with a beer kit. All-grain is almost as easy, cheaper, and about a million times tastier!

October 12, 2010 at 12:14 AM  
OpenID huningtonsachsbrauerei said...

http://www.northernbrewer.com/brewing/recipe-kits/extract-kits?limit=all It's hard to screw up a Porter -- good choice for a first batch. Use Starsan for sanitation -- much easier than bleach or iodine, and THE most important part of brewing. Fermentation temperature control is second most important -- use an old fridge to keep the first 3 days at the correct temp -- 68 for most English yeasts. Plug the fridge into a Ranco or Johnson controller. Use liquid yeast, and make a yeast starter the day before. Aerate with oxygen from the hardware store. Brew with a friend. Best advice from the father of homebrewing Charlie Papazian: relax, don't worry, have a homebrew!

October 12, 2010 at 1:05 AM  
OpenID journeyseeds said...

We made cider here at our place this weekend too. The hard stuff is coming up....

October 12, 2010 at 6:39 AM  
Blogger CallieK said...

At Not Far From the Tree (http://www.notfarfromthetree.org/) we make sweet cider with some of the apples we pick. I was amazed by how much work it is to grind the apples but maybe our machinery is not as well designed as the one you used. We are also bound by a number of government health rules because we serve to the public so we aren't allowed to use windfall apples ( due to possible E coli contamination...sigh), and we have to heat pasturize ours before serving it but some day I hope to be able to ferment some for hard cider.

October 12, 2010 at 9:20 AM  
Blogger treehuggers kitchen said...

Sooo jealous. I wanted to make hard cider this year but with football practices, soccer practices, family time, keeping up the house, winterizing the house/garden/animals, a small baking business...oh and no apple press (a minor detail, I'm sure), it just wasn't meant to be this year. Maybe next year. When the time is right, enjoy a few for all of us.

October 12, 2010 at 10:11 AM  
Blogger Odd Ducks Farm said...

Awesome! Another product you can enjoy and think about the fact that every part of it, from the apples to the honey used to feed the fermenting process, came from your farm and its envrions. Cheers!

October 12, 2010 at 1:10 PM  
Blogger jules said...

This sounds like a wonderful October day. How fun!

For cider presses and tips, check out The Deliberate Agrarian and his cider press articles: http://thedeliberateagrarian.blogspot.com/2008/10/message-for-michael-l.html

I find him most interesting to read and learn from.

October 12, 2010 at 3:00 PM  
Blogger Stargazer 2 said...

JENNA,
YEP, I KNEW IT WOULD BE SOME
KIND OF SPIRITS' BREW: BUT I DIDN'T
ENVISION A "CIVIL WAR ERA" CIDER
PRESS TO CREATE THE BREW!!! HOW VERY COOL!!!
USE A CIVIL WAR ERA ANVIL IN MY BUSINESS WHICH CAME FROM A CIVIL WAR FOUNDRY IN PETERSBURG, VIRGINIA!!!
COLD ANTLER FARM BREWERY SOUNDS VERY INTERESTING INDEED!!!
CHEERS WITH A HEALTH DRINK!!!
RONNIE A VERY HAPPY SEAT WEAVER

October 12, 2010 at 7:48 PM  
Blogger Cindy said...

After reading your post, I had to try hard cider. Found some Vermont brewed down here in Florida, and raised a glass to you Jenna. Yumm.

October 12, 2010 at 8:07 PM  
Blogger Cindy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

October 12, 2010 at 8:07 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

cindy, was it woodchuck!? I love those guys, the stuff we're making will not be as refined and clear, more murky and a little stronger: but that stuff is nice!

October 12, 2010 at 8:44 PM  
Blogger SouthernHeart said...

What a wonderful Autumn afternoon you've had! Sounds like a lot of fun to me. Just another way to enjoy the farm life...

Blessings,
Dianne

www.mysouthernheart.com

October 13, 2010 at 12:08 PM  
Blogger Cindy said...

Yep. It was Woodchuck, or rather it is Woodcuck. Enjoying another tonight. You are a bad influence. So glad I found your blog. :-)

October 13, 2010 at 7:09 PM  
Blogger ************* said...

Hah, I love how the themes of different blogging sites move with the seasons. Hard cider has been popping up all over the place! Of course, my urban project was a much more 'small batch' affair...

http://www.baltimorediy.org/2010/10/hard-cider-experiment.html

October 20, 2010 at 4:47 PM  

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