The Upside of Blogging

Sometimes, you get large, carefully-wrapped packages!!!

I thought “no way someone’d send me 30lbs of ammonium nitrate, so it’s gotta be something else!”

The truck man bringeth

The truck man bringeth

My fondness for Strongbow (do you know how hard it is to find decent cider out here in north central Pennsylvania?!) struck one of The Commentariat(tm) from Vermont as inappropriate, so they prepared a care package. It was beautifully packed in respect of the cider – not a single leak.

I am overwhelmed! Thank You! A friend and I have decided to taste-test our way through all of them. (She’s already made significant inroads into the waxed cheddar and was making happy noises) We tried the McIntosh and Maple and the Smugglers’ Reserve then went to see “Arrival.”

A good hard cider is a thing of beauty. Personally, I find the flavors of apples to be more complex than wheat or barley (though I am absolutely not deriding the products of those wonderful things!) and a good hard cider – especially the two we popped – tastes more like a champagne than a beer. That makes me wonder: I bet if I poured a good clear light hard cider in champagne flutes relatively few people would realize it wasn’t grape.

For more serious winter boozing, I take fresh apple juice (sometimes sold as “cider”) and heat it in the microwave with a couple of cloves in it, then serve it with a shot or more of cinammon Jack Daniels or Fireball. It goes down easy with some salty popcorn and a computer game.

In Sweden they make this stuff called “Copparberg’s Paron” hard pear cider. Back in 2006 or so, I was teaching a bunch of classes at Ikea and occupied the guest room of one of the corporate IT security people, who had a lot of Copparberg’s and a Wii. I vaguely remember a great deal of laughing as we played Rayman, and the carpet slowly rising up to hit me on the cheek. The Copparberg’s stuff is stronger than it tastes. I tried to sneak home a 6-pack in my luggage, but the cans were made of very thin aluminum so I wound up with sticky soaked clothes and a long wait and interrogation coming back through US customs. Thus began my international crime spree… A year later, I got an entire Parma ham home from Milan, and there was much rejoicing for a long time.


  1. chigau (ever-elliptical) says

    For Xmas, we received an Advent Calendar of Craft Beer.
    We have some very smart friends.

  2. Rob Grigjanis says

    Best cider I ever had was during a hitchhiking trip around England in the mid seventies. Stopped for the night in Cullompton, and spent a few hours in a pub near the b&b. Asked for a pint of scrumpy, and we were cautioned by the landlord about having more than the one. It tasted so good we ordered another anyway. Staggered back to the b&b and spent a while addressing the toilet. Excellent stuff.

    Ever tried making your own?

  3. says

    Rob Grigjanis@#3:
    Ever tried making your own?

    I’ve thought about it on and off. I once made a bunch of extremely sour cider from the apple trees on my farm, and it started to turn hard pretty quickly. There was discussion surrounding attempting to bottle it but it didn’t happen because: back in 1997 or so I made ginger beer. And, because I have a sweet tooth I put more sugar in than the recipe called for. I did a pre-ferment, then bottled it and capped it and left it in the basement for “a while.” Then when I went down to check it, the steel bottle caps were conspicuously bulging upward. I was smart enough not to touch the box with the bottles, and ran upstairs, put on my motorcycle helmet, welding gloves, and motorcycle jacket, then carefully picked it up and carried it out into the alley behind my house. Then, what to do with it? The obvious thing: I shot one of the bottles with a BB gun and the entire box was blown apart and there was a geyser of glass and ginger beer. Everything was glassy and sticky but at least nobody was hurt. On the other hand, I am kind of afraid of the products of fermentation.

  4. kestrel says

    Oh how wonderful! My own hard cider is waiting for me to bottle it. My cure for the exploding hazard is to bottle it as is, and then to add sweet cider to taste once I open a bottle. So far, so hard. Or good. Or something. ?? Who knows…

  5. Bruce H says

    Here’s my family’s wassail recipe. It’s a hot cider based drink, good for cold nights and warm fires. We use non-alcoholic cider, but you could probably use hard cider if you don’t mind the expense. Personally, I would go with bourbon, though. (Woodford Reserve is excellent.)

    2 quarts apple cider
    1 ½ quarts Cranberry Juice
    ¼ cup brown sugar
    4 sticks cinnamon
    1 ½ teaspoons cloves
    ½ whole lemon, sliced

    Combine all ingredients and bring to boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Serve hot.

    You can also use a percolator; just put the dry ingredients (including the sugar) in the strainer.

  6. Dunc says

    The trick to bottle conditioning is not to rely on guesswork. There are two options:

    1. Let primary fermentation complete, then add a measured amount of priming sugar before bottling. Check for the end of fermentation with a hydrometer – you can’t rely on watching for bubbles. Two days with no change in gravity means it’s finished. This also gives you the option of letting most of the yeast drop out before bottling.

    2. If you have a very good idea of what your final gravity is going to be, you can keep checking the gravity and bottle shortly before the ferment hits it. The only way to be really sure of what your final gravity will be is a forced fermentation test – take a suitably sized sample at the start of fermentation, put it on a stir plate and keep it warm, and it will ferment much faster than the main batch. Once it’s finished, you can then measure its gravity, and you know where to expect the main batch to finish.

    Fermentation is fun.

  7. cartomancer says

    As a proud inhabitant of Somerset I am legally required to point out that Strongbow is to real cider what plastic bags wrapped round one’s feet are to shoes. I am also culturally conditioned to tut loudly at the mere thought of cider in a can, grumble something about clueless city types down from London and then sidle off down the lane chewing a straw. But I’m a teetotaler, so we can forego all that. I am also supposed to be highly suspicious of New World cheeses, and claim that it’s not proper cheddar if it doesn’t come from Cheddar, just down the road. But I am aware enough that both the cheese and the town are named after the storage process it undergoes, so I won’t make that little faux pas. You could at least listen to something by The Wurzels while eating it though…

  8. says

    The trick to bottle conditioning is not to rely on guesswork.

    I can attest to that.

    I remember once reading that napoleonic hussars used to show off their sabreing and drinking skills by chopping the necks off champagne bottles with a sabre. You have to hit it just below the wire-ring and snap it off cleanly or it’s a glass hand grenade and it’s in your hand. Clearly, alcohol was involved.

  9. says

    Bruce H@#6:
    That sounds yummy!!

    I usually add the hard liquor to the cider after it’s warm, so it has less time to evaporate out. Also, based on Daz’ posted chart, it appears that alcohol stirred into warm liquid retains 85% of the alcohol. So, if you were going to put one shot in, put in 15% more! Which equates to uh…. about 2 shots.

    Call it 3.

  10. bmiller says

    If you ever make it to Northern California, Marcus, there is this amazing “artisan” (I know, I know) cider maker tucked away in a nondescript industrial park near the freeway in Windsor, California. Absolutely amazing funky cider like nothing else I have ever tasted! It helps if your palate tends (as mine does) to the funky/odd side of wine, but your comment that cider is just like Champagne is very relevant here!