Making Hard Cider and Perry with steamed juice

Making hard cider with steamed juice from the Mehu-Liisa steam juicer is fascinating and rewarding. Last year’s batch was delicious and I look forward to this year’s brewing. Below I give general info and some more specific tips on using steamed juice from the Mehu-Liisa to make hard cider and perry. Scroll down a bit to skip the general info and get right to the recipes.

   

I have been rehabilitating an old apple tree in our back yard over the past 4 years and last year the tree rewarded my efforts with a huge crop. There are three different varieties grafted onto the burly trunk; Gravenstein (first 2 photos above), an early golden and a late golden (last photo on right). I do not know the exact variety of these golden apples. The early one is mealy and not very flavorful. The later golden is crisp and flavorful with a nice dusky aroma.

 

I am slowly removing the laterals of the early golden variety and adding scions of Winter Banana via top worked cleft grafts. Winter Banana is known as a good cider apple for its strong aroma and sweetness. I am also top working scions of Ashmead’s Kernel onto the upper branches as well. Both of these varieties are excellent cider apples. I would eventually like to get a bitter-sharp apple as well. As you see in the pictures above, I have cleft grafted two scions per stub. The healthiest scion wins out and the weaker gets pruned out in winter.

 

While I wait for the late goldens to ripen, I have steam-juiced the Gravensteins and held a few over in the fridge for later pressing. I have been picking up the drops as well and storing (sweating) the best in my garage. Many cider manuals suggest “sweating” your apples (especially later, keeper varieties) for a week or two before pressing so any remaining starches will be converted to sugar. All bruises and pest damage will be cut out at pressing time. Last year I pressed 12 gallons of fresh cider from the tree. I also used about a gallon of steamed juice of Gravenstein apples as well.

 

I rented a small press from a local brewing supply shop (Falling Sky Brewery) and enjoyed a sunny afternoon pressing my apples. I didn’t keep track of how many apples I pressed, but it was about 4 of these wheel barrows full. If you figure each barrow holds about a bushel and one bushel yields about 2-3 gallons of juice that is about right for my 12 gallon yield. I did not sweat these apples. Perhaps my yield will be better this year after sweating. I am planning to buy Spitzenburg, Winter Banana, and Northern Spy from a local orchard to give the cider more character.

I fermented seven gallons of pressed cider into very dry (I prefer dry cider to sweet) “Champagne Cider” using Champagne yeast. This I bottled in champagne bottles and stored in the basement. I am still working my way through it. I will not go into this process here as I want to focus on the batches that used steamed juice from the Mehu-Liisa. The remainder I fermented with steamed juice of rhubarb, plum and peach in several trial batches. I also fermented one gallon of steamed apple juice and one gallon of steamed pear juice.

Of all the batches, I enjoyed the mixed fruit juice ciders the best, though the peach blend was fairly dull. The rhubarb blend was excellent with nice tart and tannic flavors and a bright aroma. This was my favorite. The plum blend was beautiful with a deep Prussian blue color and sweeter taste and aroma. The champagne cider is still improving in the bottle. It is not particularly interesting but is drinkable and is improved with a spot of black-current liqueur added.

RECIPES

Disclaimer: I am not a virtuoso home-brewer. I give bare-bones information here hoping folks will dive in and start enjoying home brewing. I suggest consulting a quality home-brewing guide.

Steamed Fruit Juice-Cider Blends (in all of this, absolute adherence to proper sanitation is necessary):

  • Dissolve 1 campden tablet per gallon of fresh cider. Let sit for 48 hours.
    • It is not necessary to add campden tabs to the steamed juice as it is pasteurized.
  • Choose 1 qt per gallon of cider of your preferred steamed fruit juice.
  • Add quart of steamed juice to gallon bottle, top off with fresh cider.

(I used air-locks here to keep contaminants out while I worked.)

  • Determine specific gravity (SG). (consult brewing guide for details)
    • Add apple juice concentrate to bring SG to between 1.055 and 1.070
      • This will result in potential alcohol content from 4.5 – 6.5% depending on how well the yeast consumes the sugars.
        • 2 oz. of apple juice concentrate per gallon of juice raises SG .005
  • Add the following nutrients and conditioners per gallon:
    • Tannin        ¼ tsp
    • Nutrient    ¼ tsp
    • Pectic Enzyme    ½ tsp
    • Anti-Oxi    ½ tsp
      • These are amounts that I determined would be appropriate for the juices I chose; rhubarb, plum and peach. They should work for other fruits as well. One can really get into the science of making cider by testing for acid content, etc. and adjusting with exact amounts of these nutrients and conditioners.
  • Pitch yeast
    • For the peach blend I used Red Star Champagne yeast for a very dry result.
    • For the other fruit blends I used Wyeast cider yeast as recommended at my local brew shop.
  • Primary fermentation
    • I attach a bung with a hole to each gallon and run a length of tubing from the bung to a bucket of StarSan sanitation solution (see photo below). This creates an air-tight pathway for the scum and foam that forms during primary fermentation to exit from the bottle.

  • Primary fermentation can take from 1-2 weeks to complete. It is complete when no visible signs of fermenting are taking place, ie; no bubbling or burping or fizzing.
  • Secondary fermentation
    • Take a second SG reading to determine alcohol content.
    • Rack-off into secondary fermenting vessels (transfer from one bottle to another. Scrupulous sanitary practices are paramount!!).
    • Top off with fully fermented cider or dry white wine (bring the liquid up to the neck of the bottle).
    • Attach air-locks and store cider in cool dark place for 3-6 months. During this period further racking-off can take place to clarify the resulting cider.
  • Bottling
    • Dissolve 1/6 cup of dextrose in ½ cup of water. Let cool and add to bottling bucket. This is to bottle condition the cider for carbonation.
    • Rack-off the cider into the bottling bucket. This mixes the cider and dextrose solution. No stirring is necessary.
    • Fill bottles with preferred method, and cap. I like to use the clamp top pint bottles (like Grolsch beer bottles).
    • Store in cool dark place for as long as you can stand it. It’s worth the wait.

Steamed Fruit Juice alone:

  • Follow all the above directions with the following adjustments
    • No campden tablets needed as the juice is pasteurized
    • Adjust the nutrients and conditioners as follows
      • Apple:
        • Tannin        ¼ ts
        • Nutrient    ¼ tsp
        • Pectic Enzyme    ½ tsp
        • Anti-Oxi    ½ tsp
        • Acid Blend    ¼ tsp
      • Pear:
        • Tannin        ¼ tsp
        • Nutrient    ¼ tsp
        • Pectic Enzyme    ½ tsp
        • Anti-Oxi    ½ tsp
        • Acid Blend    ¼ tsp
    • At rack-off for second ferment I added a dry white wine to top-off the bottles (pinot grigio).
    • During bottling I followed the same ratios of dextrose and water as above. I used the same clamp top bottles.

After 7 months, the steamed apple juice cider was just as good as the fresh cider if a little less fragrant. Nice and dry. The perry was perhaps the best of all these recipes. This was a surprise as the perry was kind of an after-thought during the processing of the other batches. It had a wonderful fresh pear nose and definite Bartlett aroma. Nice and dry. I drank it on ice in the heat of the summer.

So, as I said, these are the basics and I highly recommend getting a home-brewing guide or cider-making guide (you’ll find a bit of snobbery here regarding anything but fresh cider in cider making). And the most important thing to remember is: be absolutely diligent in your sanitation throughout all the steps.

Now, go make some cider!!

Take Care

Daniel

About dheila62

Owner of Mehu-Liisa Products, importer of the Mehu-Liisa Steam Juicer from Finland.
This entry was posted in apples, Fall, pears, recipes, Tips and Techniques and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Making Hard Cider and Perry with steamed juice

  1. Mike Hitchcock says:

    Great post, thank you! I currently have a 6-gallon carboy of plum wine made from juice steamed from our several plum trees. It started at 1.086, is currently at 1.000 and still has a little ways to go! And it is delicious each time I take a sample for specific gravity :-)

    My previous batch (blueberry wine) was a traditional crushed fruit must. Using steamed juice is SOOOOOO much simpler, and I have only racked twice, because there are no bits of fruit to settle.

    • dheila62 says:

      Mike

      Thank you for your comment. This weekend I will press my cider and start fermentation going for this year’s batch of ciders and cider blends. I will be adding rhubarb, plum juices and doing perry with fruit juices as well.

      Please check-out my forum and considering posting there: mehuliisaproductsDOTwebsitetoolboxDOTcom

      Take Care
      Daniel

    • dheila62 says:

      Mike
      I forgot to ask you if you add sugar to your plum juice to bring the starting SG to 1.086? I image you do but just curious. Some plums, like italian prune plums, pack some serious sugar.
      Daniel

      • mdhitchcock says:

        Yes indeed, I add dextrose (corn sugar). Nothing really has as much sugar as grapes (as much as 24%!), it is no coincidence that most wine is made from grapes :-)

        Also, I did not use straight plum juice… I was adapting from recipes that used 7# of fruit per gallon of finished wine and top up with water. So I weighed the buckets of plums before steaming them, measured the juice yielded, and guesstimated that I needed 2 gallons of juice.

        In the end, it was about 2 gal juice, 3.25 gal water, and 11# dextrose. If I used straight juice, I would have certainly decreased the dextrose, but most probably not eliminated it.

        Now I wish I had gotten the S.G. of the juice by itself! I have some canned, when I open it next month I will take a reading…

        PS: just before you posted this my neighbor pressed his apples and dropped off 6 gallons of cider, which went straight into the carboy — last week it was at 7% and still going strong!

  2. Alexandria says:

    Great information. Lucky me I recently found your website by accident (stumbleupon).

    I have book-marked it for later!

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