Now is the time of year that I get unfamiliar faces coming up to me and saying “Are you the bloke that makes the Cider? Want any Apples?” The answer to both questions is definitely “Yes!”
Cider making, I have found, is not the exact science some of the books and articles you may have read make it out to be. Basically, you take what apples you have, wash them (well, mainly!) crush them and then press out the juice. After gathering this in a suitable, sterilised, fermentation vessel (I use 5 gallon plastic jerry cans that have either been used to ship catering ingredients or distilled water, sterilised with Milton or thin bleach solution.) I don’t do anything else, the natural yeast on the apple skins gets going in a day or so. After that it’s just a case of loosening the cap two or three times a day to stop the pressure building up and waiting for the fermentation to come to a natural halt.
Once the Cider is ready (You have a day or 2 where there is no build up of pressure) it’s time to decide if you want a sparkling or a still cider. I usually rack (siphon) the cider into a clean vessel at this point and let it start to clear. After 4 or 5 days I rack to sterilised PET pop bottles (500ml or 1 litre are a handy size) and leave to clear completely. If you are after a sparkling cider add 1/4 teaspoon of sugar per 500ml when you bottle and leave somewhere warm for about a week and then move to somewhere cool and dark. Still cider can go straight to a cool, dark place to store (A fume free garage is fine or even a weather tight shed at this time of year) I use PET bottles because they are built to resist a far higher pressure than glass bottles and, should they fail in an extreme case, they do less damage! Once the cider is clear (In the case of the sparkling the bottle will be hard when squeezed) you need to chill and then pour carefully, keeping the bottle level and angling the glass. The trick is to get as much cider in the glass as you can without pouring the deposit of dead yeast and apple pulp that will have formed at the bottom (This will do no harm but will cloud your cider.) You will end up having to chuck a centimeter or so of cider away but at this price it’s no hardship!
To avoid disturbing the sediment you really need to pour the whole bottle in a single pour so I decant into a large jug (I use a 2 litre jug for 1 litre bottles as this allows space for foamimg) and serve from there.