A nice aspect of living in northern California and Nevada is our proximity to the apple-growing regions of the Sierra foothills. For many, a late-Summer or early Fall pilgrimage to Apple Hill is a highly anticipated event. All sorts of apple treats are available to buy, including pies, applesauce, juice and cider. If you’ve ever been curious about making your own hard apple cider, now is a good time to start planning.
Hard apple cider is an American tradition. In the days before purified water and refrigeration, fermenting juice was a good way to preserve the goodness of the apple tree. The alcohol in the cider was a preservative, and ensured the liquid remained safe and sanitary. It was common to drink this beverage from morning until night. Yes, our fore-bearers were buzzed all day long. Even Johnny Appleseed was planting trees to be used for cider. Up until Prohibition, cider was ubiquitous across the land.
Interest in this beverage has been increasing over the last decade. Largely marketed as a gluten-free alternative to beer, many brands are available on store shelves. For some people, the commercial varieties can be overly-sweet. However, it is fairly easy to make at home, and allows us the opportunity to craft the beverage to suit our individual tastes. A natural apple cider will fully ferment all of the juice’s sugar, leaving a crisp, dry finish.
With apple harvest time fast approaching, now is a good time to plan. An important factor in making quality cider is having a good area for fermentation. The ideal location should be dark and cool, with a temperature range of 60° to 70°. For some, this could be in a basement or a closet. Another way to regulate temperature is by re-purposing a refrigerator. Explore your options now.
Another factor in cider production is using raw, unpasteurized apple juice. Most store-bought apple juices use preservatives to prevent fermentation. Fortunately for us, preservative-free apple juice is readily available from the Apple Hill growers, near Placerville. Machado Orchards in Auburn is another good source. Better yet, if you, your neighbors, friends or family have apple trees, this can be a fun way to make use of the fruit. If you pick your own apples, you will need to juice them.
Beyond that, all you will need is some basic equipment, yeast and patience. The best places to purchase the gear you’ll need are local home-brewing stores (listed below). They’ll have the equipment, supplies and advice needed to get you started. If you have whole apples, some home-brew supply stores have apple-presses available for rent, to make juicing a lot quicker and easier.
With some planning today, you could be toasting your success this fall, and for years to come, with your own home-made apple cider.
Local Fresh Apple Juice Sources
Placerville; Apple Hill: https://applehill.com
Auburn; Machado Orchards: https://www.placergrown.org/machado-orchards
Carson City – Just Brew It: https://justbrewit.beer
Reno – Reno Homebrewer: https://renohomebrewer.com
Sparks – BrewChatter: https://brewchatter.com
Auburn – O’Hara Brew House Supply: https://www.brewhousesupply.com
Chico – Chico Home Brew: https://chicohomebrew.com
Folsom – Brew Meister: https://www.shopbrewmeister.com
Grass Valley – Sierra Moonshine HomeBrew Supplies: https://sierramoonshine.com
Sacramento – Hop Hero: https://hophero.com
West Sacramento – Brew Meister: https://www.shopbrewmeister.com
Cider Making Tutorial