Here's the cider during the fermentation process - it reminded me of pumpkin juice from Harry Potter at this point!We started by ordering the deluxe beer brewing kit from Northern Brewer, specifying the glass carboys (we had been advised that the glass carboys were better than the plastic carboys as a general rule of thumb, so we decided it was worth the slight price difference). I also stopped at the Homebrew Emporium in North Greenbush for some incidentals - yeast, additives, stuff like that.
So, making hard cider is - well, pretty darn easy! The starter kit gives you just about everything you need at first - a bucket, two carboys, all sorts of siphons, bottle caps, sanitizer, etc. as well as directions on how to use everything. The directions are geared more toward beer, but they can be easily adapted for cider.
The day before "cider day" we took a trip to Indian Ladder Farms, to pick up six gallons of cider. You want to stay away from the chemically pasteurized cider, but their cider is UV pasteurized so it's OK to use. An employee at Homebrew told me that you can request unpasteurized cider from Goold orchard as well but I haven't tried that yet. I also had two things of yeast - a dry premium wine yeast and a wet cider yeast - and some pectic enzyme to help with cider clarity.
We did two batches - five gallons went into the six gallon carboy with the dry yeast, and nothing else. The last gallon went into a separate jug with 100 mL of pure Canadian maple syrup (bought during a recent trip to Niagara) and the cider yeast. After two weeks of fermentation, we "racked" them - basically transferred them to new, clean carboys and got rid of the dead yeast at the bottom of the containers - and let it sit for another week, and then we were good to bottle! I did backsweeten the cider with some wine conditioner (an insoluble sugar that will sweeten the cider without triggering additional fermentation) and we ended up with two cases plus of cider - the regular cider was 6% alcohol and the maple cider, due to the additional sugar content, was 7%.
It turned out pretty darn good - and naturally gluten free!
During cider season, I'm planning a couple more batches - with additional fruit, cinnamon and mulling spices - before trying my hand at vino. I'm excited!