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Dec 8th 2008 11:04AM Avi- No, I haven't had the Kensington Gin. It sounds very interesting.
Nov 12th 2008 6:14PM Mark- your questions are interesting, I'll try to answer all of them.
First, I don't understand why you added sugar to any of your batches of hard cider. Sugar, when it ferments, adds its own flavors, and they aren't always good ones. By adding sugar before fermentation you change the way it will taste later, but with little or no control over it. Also you increase the amount of alcohol. Cider would naturally have an alcohol level of anywhere from 5.5%-7%. By adding the sugars you have now changed the product from a hard cider, to an apple wine.
Second, you say "The initial reading was 15 to 19, after a month at 61 degrees it was 0 or -1. " Which scale are you using? For brix or specific gravity? Was this before or after adding sugar. If after, what was the original specific gravity or brix?
Any which way, if the numbers are down to or less than 0, I am assuming that the fermentation is done. It sounds like you have a high alcohol apple wine there if the scale you are using shows the potential alcohol as 15-19%. Otherwise I assume it means the potential alcohol is 7.5-9.9%. depending which scale, is what the numbers mean.
Third, you ask "My question is what do I age the cider in for the next year, or two or three? 3 gal Oak barrels, keep it in the plastic fermentation barrels?"
For home cider making you want it to be in plastic for a very short primary fermentation of 1-2 weeks. Then get it off the lees and into a sanitized glass carboy for the longer, secondary fermentation/primary aging. Top off the carboys with CO2 in the headspace to prevent oxidation. After a few months you will have a good idea of what the cider is going to taste like. Then you can put in toasted barrels of you wish, but they are expensive. Or add toasted oak chips and test every week or two until you get the amount of wood you are looking for. Be conservative, it's easy to add more wood, but you can't take it out.
Fourth, "kill the yeast, add honey, maple syrup, apple concentrate?" Yes, do this after you get apx. the amount of wood flavor, or maybe a little less than you want. let it sit for another few weeks and test. then correct the flavor some more, add more wood, etc. Always to-p off the headspace with CO2 after each time you test it or mess around with it. Once you kill the yeast you have to be very careful about oxidation, so be gentle, and always top off the headspace with CO2.
fifth, making sparkling cider at home means adding sugars (priming) to get a natural fermentation in the bottle. for this use sugar. Use the amounts suggested in a good home brewing guide. if you add too much you will get exploding bottles.
Honey takes a long, long, time to ferment and varies in sugar levels and available nutrients. So you may, most probably will, have problems using it for priming. Also if you added honey prior to fermentation, or to live yeast at any point, expect it to take up to six months to fully ferment. It may never ferment and can cause a 'stuck' fermentation. Then a increase in temperature can cause it to kick in again, starting the fermentation over again, but not under your control. This is why making mead takes a long time, to make a good product.
Use the bottles you mention for still or sparkling cider. If they are in good shape, the rubber gaskets have only been used once, aren't all scratched up, and you can get them sparkling clean inside. If the gaskets are more than a year old or been used more than once you need to order new ones. Use the jars for still cider only, they aren't made for pressure and will explode. Make sure you sanitize everything extremely well.
Nov 12th 2008 5:44PM Rob- (My very good friend who runs a fine wine/liquor shop in NYC near the United Nations Building and is an expert on fine wines and spirits. We've worked at some of the same wine shops, but not at the same time.) I assume by aged on lees that you mean a secondary aging in the bottle with live yeast to naturally carbonate the cider.
The problem with this is that cider is a tricky critter. It oxidizes more rapidly and easily than just about any other fermented beverage, almost but not as easily as sake, and oxidation is a bad thing. It can bring in unwanted flavors and spoil a good beverage. Also you have to add food for the yeast, which means adding sugar in some form. In the case of cider this could mean actual sugar, fresh and unfermented apple juice, apple concentarte, etc. Adding any of these will change the flavor of the cider, and we wouldn't know if it was for the good or worse, until a few weeks later when the sealed bottles had developed their carbonation. In addition, the cider can pick up weird and nasty, musty flavors over time while sitting on the dead yeast bodies in the bottle.
So, we declined to carbonate naturally by a secondary carbonation in the bottle, and cold carbonated it under pressure. This we we know how it tastes, which we spent a lot of time working on to create, and we know it has less of a chance of the flavor changing in the bottle over time, in a negative way.
Nov 7th 2008 6:13PM ican'tread- that's a great question. Ben Jones, who grew up here in Maine, and is a direct descendant of Homere Clement, and runs Clement USA, stopped by my place on his vacation this summer. He dropped off a few bottles for me as a present and the Creole Shrubb was in the new bottle.
I asked about it and he told me that the women who tied the rafia around the tall bottles have all just recently passed away or retired from old age, and they couldn't get anyone to replace them. So, since they couldn't get anyone to tie the rafia on the bottles, they decided to change to a new bottle shape and retire the tall bottles with the rafia. One day they may even become collectors items.
Oct 15th 2008 7:59AM Susie- Yes, the Spice Bush fruit are a glossy red, aromatic, usually in clusters, and have a single large seed. There is no other bush that really looks and smells like Spice Bush. Once you have identified it, you will easily know it for life. The aroma of the leaves and fruit is so fantastic and unique, it can't be confused with anything else.
Oct 14th 2008 7:18AM Monika- Amen Sister! I'm with you. Of course you already know that the cocktail hour is an important part of my life. I just love the interaction of having friends over and asking them to name their poison, hopefully something obscure that makes me dig through old cocktail tomes and scramble for unusual ingredients. Then as I spend the time painstaklingly creating their cocktails, then kick back and slowly sip, we chat and catch up on our lives and ambitions.
Sadly, I am so busy lately that I haven't had a cocktail since early SEPTEMBER! when i was last out of town in NYC. When I get home from work all I want is a shower, a quick dinner, and bed. You'd think being a partner in a winery, brewery, and upcoming distillery I'd be celebrating Cocktail Hour everyday. Well, at least I got to sip a small glass of our new hard cider this past weekend. My first drink in weeks, and I sure enjoyed it. Aged for almost a year with time spent on oak. Tasty!
So here's a Big Cheers to Cocktail Hour and spending some time with friends, winding down from a long day, hanging out and appreciating each other. Because THAT'S what Cocktail Hour is all about. (Besides enjoying a fine libation ;-)> )
Oct 2nd 2008 8:24PM Keith- I've never had a Test Pilot, but now the craving has hit. Just looking at the recipe and you can tell it's genius at work. I just need to get more falernum in the house. I ran out a few weeks ago and have to stock up again. I wonder how it would taste with two very special rums I have in my possession. One is rye barrel aged, and the other bourbon barrel, both excellent.
I'm coming out of the closet to say that I proudly admit I'm Tiki. I wear my Hawaiian shirts from spring through fall, like a nice tall Zombie, a tangy Mai Tai, or a big fat bowl of Scorpion. My choice in women is Polynesian, in a grass skirt all the more so. I get flack about the shirts all the time from my partners... at least they know I'm a cocktail fanatic and forgive me.
At Tales it was easy to see who was Tiki. Of course the choice in cocktails, and the very visible shirts, but those who Tiki also tend to wear hats, usually a Panama or straw shademaker.... and if male... a goatee nails it. -JMF-
Sep 19th 2008 4:55AM Robin- I am originally from Park Slope Brooklyn, then Westchester County. I spent weekends and vacation on Long Island as a kid, and had several summer rentals as a young adult. I then lived at Stony Brook for fantastic three years, before living in a total of seven states in five regions of the US, then traveled around the world for a time. If you were in Post Jeff, Stony Brook, and Setauket during 1990-93 then we may well have walked by each other.
Sep 19th 2008 4:51AM Teya- It is almost impossible to find spice bush as a dried tea. I know of one place where you can special order it but it is astronomical in price because they have to actually send someone out to harvest it.
Spice Bush is a zone 4-9 plant and while is native to the East coast, has spread to over 33 states.
If you go to davesgarden.com you can find vendors offering to sell, and members who want to trade. Here's the link and at this time there are 12 vendors selling and 15 members trading spice bush.
Sep 16th 2008 7:26AM Marisa- I was just going to write about roasting and freezing tomatoes myself. You beat me to it. I had a friend give me tons of all types of heirloom tomatoes. I roasted them up, put them in vac seal bags in one serving size amounts, froze them, then vac sealed them and put them back in the freezer to use as the whim strikes.