Cider is commonly made by the grower of the fruit, though it would be better for the public if it were brewed by professionals working on scientific principles. The operation is often done in a slovenly manner by the farmer.
Cidermaking is as simple as winemaking or brewing. The following outline is easy enough to follow by anyone having a few trees who wishes to make some cider. The stages are: gathering, preparing the fruit, grinding, pressing, fermenting and bottling.
In gathering cider apples, they should be ripe, or the cider will be harsh and rough, even if perfectly made. Wait until they drop from the tree and have the right fragrance. One way of harvesting is to shake the tree. You might make three gatherings altogether, keeping them separate.
The quality of cider depends on the right mix of apples. Any green or red ones should be kept separate from yellow or yellow and red. Only the yellow and red are capable of making fine cider. Each kind should be collected separately and kept until ready and mellow.
They are then put in heaps about a foot thick, outside, not covered. This improves the flavour and strength of the future cider, but the apples must be in a current of air or they will get a musty smell which passes over into the brew. The quality of the fruit improves for as long as it goes a deeper shade of yellow. Any decayed or damaged fruit should be removed; it greatly improves the quality of the liquor.
In Ireland a mixture of every sort of apple is used, and some crabs are always added. This makes Irish cider less sweet than English, but once a person likes dry cider he's unlikely to go back to the other sort.
Thr fruit is now ground so that the rind and cores almost disappear. This process, with free access of air, improves the flavour. During this time it may be spread out, turned, and ground again. It's then taken to the press in a "cake", and pressed, either immediately or after being left for a while. It's held between straw or reeds, in layers. Then it is pressed, gently at first; the juice is passed through a sieve and put into fermenting vessels - sometimes open vats and sometimes closed casks.
Fermentation raises a scum to the surface. The liquor gradually changes from turbid to clear, and acquires a vinous charpness. At this point, a lot of skill is needed to rack off the half-formed cider from the sediments, and put it into casks in a cool cellar. The cider will clear and become highly vinous and fragrant if it's racked at exactly the right time.
Cider is in the best state to be put into bottles at two years old. It will soon become brisk and sparkling, and if it has a rich taste, it will remain virtually unchanged for twenty or thirty years.
In making cider for the farmhouse, the procedure is rather different. Flavour is secondary to cheapness. The apples are often ground as soon as they are moderately ripe, and the juice is frequently conveyed straight to the cellar. The sugar ferments out rapidly, and the liquid is put into casks, and in the spring it's racked. Nothing more is done or needs to be. The cider is harsh and rough and peasants seem to like it. When extremely harsh or thin, adding a small amount of bruised wheat or slices of toasted bread make it a bit more drinkable.
Paraphrased from Loudon's Encyclopedia of Agriculture, 1847, by ND.
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