Summers in Ireland are fairly predictable affairs. They usually start unexpectedly in early May, with a blast of unseasonal heat that gives the media something to get crow about. The scantily clad weather wenches of RTÉ , regale us with stories about how it is hotter in Belmullet than on the Costa del Sol. Ever more dubious statistics and facts are sought out –by people who are clearly overpaid and have nothing better to do. Experts claim the last time it was this warm was in Death Valley Gultch in June 1959 and so forth.
If this period lasts longer than two weeks then environmentalists, the self appointed seers of this scientific age, who have been hiding throughout the bitter winter gales pop up, to sternly remind us of a new Hell starting with demise of the polar bear. Gagging on cattle farts before drowning in a salty sea of sin, sweat and tears, in the oil field formerly known as the North Pole or somewhere.
This period can last as long as the start of June when the weather reverts to normal. And media types start rooting around for stories about the last time flood waters were this high. February 1962 or when Noah and his mates last went by – that sort of thing. And that is pretty much it.
As June gradually floats into July – I like to put some work into the Orchard. The magnificent Sido Orchards are on a South facing aisle in Aldi, Roscommon. Next to the Sido Vineyard. I don’t intend to ponce on like yer French types about terroir and stuff like that. So let’s look at bulk White Wine (sparkling or still ) and bulk Cider – both very easy recipes.
Aldi White Grape Juice declares a sugar content of 151 gm/litre though my hydrometer puts the sugar content at around 185 gm/litre. If 185 gm/litre were all converted to alcohol this would give a content of around 9.4 % ABV
Aldi Apple Juice declares a sugar content of 104 gm per litre though my hydrometer puts the sugar content at around 120 gm/litre. If 120 gm/litre were all converted to alcohol this would give a content of around 5.8 % ABV
And the discrepancy – (insert your own conspiracy theory here ) I suppose that we can assume that most people drinking fruit juice will be health conscious and worried about the calorie count – this might explain the discrepancy. Also bear in mind Coca Cola claim around 116 gm/litre. Hopefully by the time you have processed the juice, you will have stripped away any health claims that can be made for it. It won’t be a part of your “Five a Day” plan. Whatever, take my readings as being the correct ones (to play it safe).
You might want to leave the alcohol content at that or you may fancy a bit more of a workout for your liver. To do this you add sugar . I use an American ¼ cup of sugar to the litre this is between 40 or 50 grams of sugar per measure. Alternatively, you could dissolve a 1Kg bag of sugar and put it in with a 21 litre brew this would increase the alcohol content of the Cider to around 8% ABV and the Wine to 11 % ABV. My recipe allows for a casual approach to measuring – though never be tempted to overdo the sugar – As you will just end up with a nasty mess!
Use Champagne yeast for both products – I know this sounds a bit weird for the Cider. And I have been accused by an American blogger of “feminizing” my Cider. What utter shite these colonial types talk. I have tried a “Cider yeast” and the taste was not as good. It was also the case that when I opened the finished bottle the Cider yeast rose into the bottle – making for a slightly cloudy drink.
Champagne yeast is very hardy and very forgiving. It also gives a reliable secondary fermentation, for a fizz, should you require it. It is also easier to pour your beverage without the yeast at the bottom of the bottle clouding up the drink. I will be giving links to suppliers at the end of the post. I start mine in a 2 litre starter bottle about 2 days before I put the bulk mix on and then pitch this mix in. This is because I don’t want to use all of the powdered yeast. I might typically use 20% of the pack. I also add a level teaspoon of Youngs Yeast nutrient per 5 litres of brew, mixing this in with the bulk bucket (if I can remember) .
Hygiene – use Aldi’s spray on Antibacterial surface cleaner this is a cheap product that does not leave an after taste. Make sure to rinse it off as any detergent left in the brew will tend to dull any head on a sparkling product.
It might take about 2 to three weeks to fully ferment your mix – champagne yeast will go by itself in summer and needs a warm room in winter . If it tastes sweet then give it longer.
I mature my brew in gallon water containers to help clear it. Should you wish your product to taste like it has been stored in an oak barrel (and who doesn’t nowadays) then throw in a bit of oak sawdust at this stage. Be careful though, as “over oaking” can be regarded as being vulgar. If you are leaving your brew still at this stage some would recommend the addition of as preservative. I don’t . Just make sure your brew is well sealed to prevent oxidation.
You will also need a siphon with a lump of plastic on the end so that you don’t suck any yeast that has settled on the bottom of the container onto the next stage.
To get a fizzy product – Add one level teaspoon per pint bottle to the finished product. And store in a warm place for about ten days before moving to somewhere cooler. Don’t overdo the sugar as the drink will fizz all over the place when you open it and you will be left with only half the product in the bottle and the other half over you. If you do end up with a product that is to fizzy then make sure to chill it well in the fridge before serving, this will help keep the carbon dioxide dissolved in the drink.
You will need from a supplier
A fermentation bucket. (5 gallons/25 litres) with a lid with a hole in it.
A hollow rubber bung.
A fermentation lock.
Dried Champagne Yeast
Youngs Yeast Nutrient.
You might also consider
Oak sawdust (for that brewed in the barrel flavour) For some reason this is outrageously expensive!
A preservative (should you want one) if you are making a still product.
You will also need.
5 litre water bottles – handy for settling your product.
Bottles either glass or plastic
A surface cleaner.
I have also used both these suppliers.