Super Food Nerds: Make Hard Apple Cider from Scratch (Sort Of)
I’ve been pretty into hard cider for a while, so for this latest installment of Super Food Nerds I wanted to meet some people who could shed some light on the fermentation process. Through the magic of the Internet I found Hayley Jensen, the beer sommelier at Manhattan’s Taproom 307 who, along with her husband, Stephen Durley, the taproom’s chef, is an avid, multiple-award-winning homebrewer and has been making cider at home for a few years.
Jensen suggested we meet at her home instead of the restaurant, which we understood upon arrival: Their small spare bedroom is tricked out with racks and racks of professional-grade brewing equipment and hundreds of gallons of various brews, including Candy Crush, a caramel-apple-inspired “city cider” made from store-bought apple cider.
The couple started making city cider after a trip to Jensen’s sister’s farmhouse, where they’d made cider entirely from scratch. Durley explains: “It was a big process. It took basically a full day to juice all the apples, wash them and take them to the press. Then you have to grind them, press them, get the juice and bring it home. We really liked it, but I was like, ‘Wait: Can’t we just buy some apple juice and have some fun?”
The process is really simple: They start with pasteurized apple cider and mix it with yeast (they use champagne yeast, which you can get online or from a homebrewing store), then add caramelized sugar to help the fermentation along. Once the fermentation is finished (usually a week or two), they’ll transfer it to another container and add oak chips and pecans to infuse the cider with a little more structure and flavor. After another week or two, they refrigerate to halt the fermentation, then add freshly juiced Granny Smith apples and a little more caramelized sugar. Lastly, they run everything through a filter so that it pours clearly. (Jensen says, “It’s actually not necessary to clarify the cider, but we have so much equipment that we like to go the extra mile.”)
The final result is really excellent: bright and fresh, with warm caramel, plus slight vegetal notes from the Granny Smiths that balance out the sweetness perfectly.
If you’re into trying this on your own, here are some of our favorite resources:
A batch of city cider steeps with pecans and oak chips amid numerous awards.
The airlock lets carbon dioxide out while protecting the cider from the elements.
Once the cider is ready to keg, they juice Granny Smith apples to add to the final brew.
The cider is siphoned into a keg. Without a keg, it can be decanted and refrigerated (though it should be consumed relatively quickly). The final filtration leads to a clear, pretty golden pour.
See even more of Cooking Channel’s Adventures in Cooking .
Super Food Nerds is a column written in alternating installments by Rupa (food and beverage editor, culinary staff) and Jonathan (research librarian, same place). Each post will be dedicated to a particular topic — how to DIY something you don’t normally DIY, how to perfect a dish usually taken for granted, plus the best techniques, underlying chemistries and a handful of inexplicable preferences. Basically, if they can overthink it, they’re on it.