Around ten years ago – today – my friend Ian invited us out to an orchard in a nook and cranny town here in CT, to press apples for making cider.
I had made my own hard cider before, but not from personally fresh pressed juice. I had hunted down a farmer up in the Storrs-Mansfield area who sold me five gallons of unpasteurized apple swill for that one.
So, coming from a family of people who made their name in apples, this was big medicine to me. Heck, the idea of pressing apples was so agrarian and colonial to me, that it had my mind going a mile a minute.
I was giddy.
We spent the morning walking the orchard – collecting the perfect specimens – warts and all – and then spent the afternoon cranking away on the apple press. The smell was fantastic. My head was swimming. I was going to make a hard cider – from tip to tail.
I was in a state of continuous giddiness..
I remember driving the hour or so home and getting right to work on making this all into a delicious reality. I’m not even sure I walked the dog that night.
This was an extremely small batch – just two gallons – and I didn’t calculate for all the excitement when I mixed it all together, that night at home. I especially didn’t consider how potent the fresh maple syrup I used instead of sugar, to ignite the fermenting process, would be.
Either way, I put the four crowlers in a cooler, and left the whole get-go under my workbench in my warm and damp workshop; the same area where many home brews had been left to fester before.
Hindsight – this should have been a more methodical process. This should have all been done in a carboy – airlock and all – and then transferred, proper – wherein I could add in the maple syrup, once the natural sugars of the purée and the yeast had done their primary dance.
A couple of nights later – around 2am, I jumped out of bed after hearing, what sounded like, a shotgun blast. I cleared the house twice before my nerves were settled enough to let my mind wander back into dreamland..
The next morning, I headed downstairs – into the basement – where the workshop was – and was instantly hit with the smell of rotting apples when I opened the door.
There, under the workbench, was the blue Igloo cooler – shifted and disjointed and way worse for wear..
And inside was a pool of would be cider and shards of floating amber glass.
I over-primed something that really didn’t need priming. I ignored the need for this wort to breathe. I really dropped the ball..
That English Cider yeast and pure, unmolested, apple juice would have done a fine enough job on their own. But I had a vision and I took a chance with the addition of that Grade A Amber syrup.
Oh well. It would have been a real dandy – that’s for sure.
The little bit I did taste had a specific sweetness and tang that I know would have matured nicely to become a crisp, but creamy, apple cider – worthy of my Grandfather’s name.
The Apple King.