A while back we introduced an easy way to make your own hard cider and shared a very basic hard cider recipe for making 5 gallons. However, this intro only scratches the surface. In fact, there is a wide variety of augmentations you can apply to a hard cider recipe to alter its flavor.
Fruits, spices, sugars, and yeasts: here are five ways to add some variation to your homemade hard cider recipe – and make yours stand out from the pack!
As with beer, fruit can be added to any hard cider recipe for extra complexity, flavor, and sweetness. Peaches, raspberries, figs, strawberries, blueberries, watermelons… it’s all fair game! Crushed fruit is usually added to the fermenter. You can add crushed whole fruit or you can experiment with fruit flavoring. Some cider makers prefer to use frozen fruit. The freezing breaks down the fruit’s cell walls, making it easier to extract more flavor. When dealing with whole fruit, consider using some pectic enzyme to help break down haze-forming pectins.
Try adding whole spices to your hard cider recipe. Add cinnamon, ginger, and clove to the secondary fermenter. Alternatively, heat the spices in a mixture of honey or simply syrup and mix into the apple juice prior to or after primary fermentation. Remember, go easy the first time you add spices to your cider. You can always add more to your next batch. If you do accidentally add too much, just let the cider age until the spices mellow out.
A wide variety of sugars can be used to boost the gravity of your hard cider, from cane sugar or household brown sugar to Belgian candi sugar or honey. I recently tasted a cider back-sweetened with a brandy reduction. It was amazing!
Ale yeasts like Fermentis Safale S-04 are clean fermenters – they don’t leave behind much in the way of yeasty esters or phenolics as long as they ferment within the recommended temperature range. You could however experiment with different yeast strains to try to bring out some yeast character. Farmhouse and Belgian beer yeasts are worth trying on an apple cider recipe, not to mention a whole slew of wine yeasts. How would a hefeweizen yeast turn out, fermented at lower temperatures to accentuate the clove character? Could be interesting…
- Mix and Match
Once you’ve tried a few of these different hard cider recipe variations listed above, why not combine some of them? To play it safe (and if you have the spare fermentation capacity) try one variation at a time, then blend them together later on after you’ve had a chance to try each one. You may discover your new favorite drink!
What variations have you tried with your homemade hard cider?
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.