My ‘partial defrost’ method of frozen juice (pressed from frozen apples) worked like a charm. I discarded approximately 1/3 of each bottle, leaving a much stronger juice than went into the freezer in the first place. They were mostly cooking apples though, and not even particularly ripe, so the taste is somewhat lacking in sweetness. So, I plan to use this juice to experiment with ‘introduced’ flavours, namely ginger and lemon.
I have near enough 15 litres of tart apple juice, so I’m going to need to add a fair amount of sugar to feed the yeasties, and some lactose to appease the palate, or else it’s going to produce the facial expression of a bulldog licking piss off a nettle, on anyone brave enough to taste it. The SG of the naked juice is a barely believable 1.060, but it just doesn’t taste that sweet so I am suspicious that the hydrometer reading is skewed by the ‘pulpiness’ of the must or something. Anyway, if in doubt, chuck in some sugar – rather have stronger end product that weaker!
If the SG is correct (and I didn’t even add on the extra little bit to account for a warm must temperature) then I could well end up with a 7.8 percent grunter of a cider, if it all progresses as intended. So, what harm could come from adding 255g of white sugar? That would take it to 1.065, which gives us 8.6 percent drinkie poos. I suspect that we’ll actually be looking at a couple of percent lower all round, but hey, 6 percent is still none too shabby. I won’t be able to tell until I drink it.
I chucked in 4 x Campden tablets (crushed) a couple of days ago, so I should be good to get this thing underway tonight.
I’ve sat there in front of the TV painstakingly peeling 500g of root ginger. Minus the ‘peel’ it turns out to be 350g, not quite as much as I’d hoped for but I really am feeling in the dark here, I don’t know how much I will need for a ‘gingery overtone’. I’ve tasted a lot of ‘novelty’ flavour beers and stouts, and to be honest, most of the time the additional flavour is too much, too overpowering. I figure with ginger though, it doesn’t matter too much if I slightly over gingify it, because we all like ginger beer anyway, right? I give the ginger a quick blast in the foot processor, so it’s in 5mm pieces, more or less. Then I add the zest of 2 lemons. I’ve heard several people say that a bit of lemon juice helps the taste a bit, and other people say that it can kill the yeast. So, I compromise by zesting it.
(FYI do not Google ‘lemon juice kills yeast’ unless you are specifically looking for ways to deal with a yeast infection of the downstairs variety)
All this goes into a saucepan along with the sugar and the juice I had drawn off to test the SG and I boil it up for a couple of minutes to produce a delicious smelling ginger syrup. I believe the flavour of the ginger is preserved a bit better by not boiling, but I want to kill any other organic nasties that might be lurking in it. After all, it grew in the ground so it’s hardly going to be sterile, is it. Apparently you can steep it in vodka instead of boiling, but I don’t have enough to spare. When the ‘mash’ has cooled a little I chuck it all into the fermenter and give it a good stir.
11g of wine yeast goes in next (no cider yeast left in Dunedin, I guess this time of year everyone must be at it). On with the lid, and this time I’ve elected to turn the heat mat on straight away, as it’s pretty darn cold outside (we had a dusting of snow this morning). I also make sure I put its snuggly blanket on, to try and minimise heat loss. The sooner I can get my temperature controlled fermenting chamber (ie an old fridge) up and running, the better.