Saturday, January 04, 2014

Appom Cider

So, in the simplest sense it's just:

four pomegranates
5 gallons of cider
and one packet of wine yeast.

That really doesn't tell the whole story. It's not a process I've mastered, but so far my first attempt at least created an ok cider, and more importantly taught me a thing or two about the process. That one was just cider plus yeast and time.
a real test of patience actually.
It actually tasted horrible the first time I put some in a glass and tried it. It was horribly bitter, very sour, and otherwise uninteresting. With time, though, it's become much better. I expect it will get much, much better.
It's also super cloudy.
Compared to making beer, it's been maddeningly simplistic. In beer making I feel like I know the control factors for every aspect of beer production that I have decided to care about, and how to get the results I want. "put it all in a bottle and just wait, it'll work out" were not comforting words to me. I had little interest in doing this sort of thing poorly. I wanted to do it well or just not do it, so I started studying. The first thing I found was that there are TONS of people who will tell you that all you have to do is put apple juice and yeast somewhere clean and dark and cold and just wait for it to become cider. They buy one of the many available clear brands of juice found in grocery stores, add yeast, and it becomes hard cider. They're not wrong. That works. If it's one of the glass bottles, you could probably just remove the cap, sprinkle in yeast, stopper it with a blow-off hose, and wait. You will get some kind of cider. It might smell like rotten eggs but apparently that goes away after a while. The only thing you really have to control and worry about is allowing the yeast to live and multiply while not letting bacteria do the same.

I made one initial attempt like this, with just one gallon of apple juice and some yeast. It was awful. I believe it was infected by some bacteria. I needed more control.

I found (thanks again, Google) and started getting a better handle on things. Cider bacterial control is traditionally handled by pH. A strong enough acid will deter bacteria. You want to get the PH under 4 but not by too much and this was done by using apples with a higher acid content.

I don't have those apples. I don't know of any local suppliers for this kind of juice. This is a problem. The available solution is to add some citric acid. Did that. Also some brewers will add potassium metabisulfite. I would prefer to avoid this but I have some on hand. I used some with the last batch, from 5 gallons of cloudy local pressed and pasteurized cider. Once that started to age well and I'd ran through why it is the way it is, it was time to give it another shot.

January 3rd, I bought 5 gallons of local-ish fresh pressed cider at $7 each and 4 pomegranates at $3 each. $47 in juice. I split the pomegranates and harvested the seeds using the beat-it-with-a-blunt-object method. It's quick, it breaks down some of the seeds but I don't care because the next step is...
crushing it to a pulp
and extracting about 3.5 cups of juice

(delicious juice)

So, this smells and tastes and looks pretty good so I'm fairly excited about this. Also, yes, apparently from my process 4 pomegranates = 3.5c juice.

So this needs to be pasteurized as well, and I only have one method for that.
That's pretty much it. I can heat it to about 180 for long enough to eliminate bacteria. It was at 180 for at least 20 minutes. Maybe that wasn't enough. We'll see.

In the meantime we need to be cleaning and sanitizing the fermenter, which was just emptied of its previous contents, which I named Jovovich.

I use a process of cleaning with OxyClean, which breaks down proteins and thus eliminates bacteria, as well as it can anyway. I follow this with a rinse and a soak with a 12.5ppm iodine solution (assuming I achieve my intended proportions).
Just soaking
and yes, it's that easy, reliably
So, the oxidizing cleaner soaks about 20 minutes, then the iodine soaks another 10. Everything to be used, like my thermometer and my cup I'm going to use to start my yeast, goes into the bucket for both cleaning and sanitizing. While this dries I get to start up my yeast. I put it in some sanitary water plus pasteurized apple juice and my yeast packet and I stir occasionally to add oxygen. Everything involved has been sanitized or pasteurized so I'm confident it's clean, just yeast should be growing there. I also gave it some yeast nutrient, because apples don't really carry what yeast needs. It should be plenty happy.

After the bucket dried for a while I added the 5 gallons of apple juice and all of the pomegranate juice. Rather than need a sanitized rubber spatula for the pomegranate, I rinsed with apple cider to pull all of it from the cookpot. After checking pH (about 4) I added some citric acid to bolster the acid content. I also added pectic enzyme, in hopes it will help clear the pectin haze in my cider. this was to be added 1 hour before yeast. I don't know if this will work in this case, depends on the pasteurization process.

Finally, after an hour, the warmed-up yeast is into the bucket with all the rest and it's sealed and in the back room at about 62 degrees. It is holding airlock pressure so there's at least SOME fermenting going on but not a lot yet that I can see. It started at 1.050 specific gravity, so if it ferments down to 1.01 that would hit 5.3% abv. I'll update further when I get it moved over to a clear carboy, so we can see the color. It should be AWESOME. It smelled great going in.

January 6th: 3 days later, it smelled nice and I could see significant yeast activity.

January 7th: It smells awful.

I've been reading forums a long time and I have yet to find the response "I waited it out and it remained awful" for anything in this range. All discussions I've found seem to conclude that bad smells in cider often happen but generally will pass.

I regretted omitting the potassium metabisulfite. I corrected that. 1/4 tsp sprinkled into the batch. Sealed off again and agitated to distribute. Hopefully this smell clears. I think I'll just accept the necessity of a little sulfite in the future. Then again, maybe I'm just being paranoid. Maybe it'd be fine without.

January 12th: While preparing to transfer the cider to secondary, I decided to check the gravity, the smell, and the taste.

It smells fine. Quite nice actually! There's a sweet aroma which I think is from the pomegranate but what do I know. The current gravity reading is 1.000 as near as I can tell with my drop-in hydrometer. If all of that is proper fermentation I've hit about 6.7% ABV. It's cloudy, like my last, but not in a way I'd worry about. I'm fairly sure it's just a pectin haze. It tastes nice, but not in any particularly exciting way. I would recommend at least twice as much pomegranate. I'm considering buying it in a bottle next time, rather than fresh.

I feel I should be a little more clear about the smell, because I really considered dumping it. It's common for a cider to smell like rotten egg (sulfur), and many cider makers describe the F&A stage (feet and ass) but I would've described the aroma from this cider as something more like wet, dead rat. A few times I've come across a mouse in the mousetrap a couple days later than I wish I would have, and it's basically that smell. After the first time I noticed it I spent the day waiting for my wife to call me at work and insist we throw it out. I had let her know, before I left for work, and I told her it doesn't necessarily mean it's ruined or anything but it's just quite bad. Even after that warning I was pretty sure she'd feel the need to do something about it the next time she walked in that room. But, here we are not even a week later and it smells pretty much pleasant again.

January 13th:  I had some head-space left in the carboy after transferring. This is not desirable because it's basically a place to have oxygen which can support bacterial growth. I decided to kill two birds with one stone and top off with more pomegranate juice. Before this the cider had a peachy hue. Now, it's really taken on a rosy color. This is more what I was going for in the first place, so I'll just note that the juice of roughly 10 pomegranates is (probably) the right level for 5 gallons of cider. I think that was actually my first guess, 2 per gallon. That's roughly a half gallon of pomegranate juice. This brings up another question I've had about cider. I don't actually know if I have any preference at all toward cider made from fresh pressed sweet apple juice. It's cloudy, it's not cider apples, most likely it's made from red delicious or some other similar type of apple, or a blend. I don't yet know for sure if  I actually prefer this to the run of the mill Old Orchard or Treetop apple juice I had as a kid, but I've been putting down extra dollars to buy the fancy local fresh pressed, pasteurized, un-preserved stuff. The apple juice alone for this batch was $35. Next experiment: cheap grocery store frozen apple juice concentrate cider. It's clear, it's preservative free and 100% apple juice. It's probably higher gravity, and I can toss in an extra can or two of concentrate to enhance the flavor. 

I fully intend to make cider from real, traditional cider apples. I want to try all the classic varieties, especially foxwhelp, and eventually I want to cultivate my own trees once I've figured out my favorites. That being said, I'm not particularly interested in cider snobbery, and if I like drinking cheap from-concentrate apple cider I'll be quite pleased to find that out. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Let me tell you about Poison Oak Deer...

I want to tell you about Poison Oak Deer. It's a new species, my daughter made them up after we arrived in North Carolina. The Poison Oak Deer has teeth and claws and everything like a bear. They're very dangerous and they stalk travelers along the road. They're very fierce and also they have wings. There seem to be many of these deer around North Carolina, but so far we have been able to avoid them, narrowly.

They have been known to cause structural damage to buildings, and have also been responsible for some of the felled trees in the area. I haven't quite been able to identify the signs though. Only Phoenix can clearly identify their handiwork it seems.

A Poison Oak Deer is not quite as big as a bear, On average they weigh about eighty pounds. They eat fish and regular bears and trees and poison berries 'cause that's good for their tummies because they are poisonous. Also lightbulbs and cars when you leave them parked, and workshops and coffee houses, and grass and fences. As you can imagine they are quite fearsome. When they are in their house, they will attack.

Although the adults tend to travel alone, the kids have friends and stay in packs. The young friends live in the trees, and the mommies live in a real house made of bricks and dirt. When people climb up with shoes on their feet the Poison Oak Deer will attack to defend its home and they are very tough. If you come upon one of the bigger ones they will attack and try to eat you and you must run fast.

So far none of these Poison Oak Deer have been caught on camera. We may try to provide a sketch in the next couple of days.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

To Capital One Master Card, a Letter.

Hello Capital One, is Brooke Simmons there? No? I'll ask again, is Brooke Simmons there? No? That's funny, I know you just told me she is not available at that number, Capital One, but I feel compelled to keep asking you. Oh yeah, that's right, this is what the people at Capital One Master Card have been doing to me for almost two years now Capital One. I have told you, Capital One Master Card, time and time again, that this is MY cell phone number and I don't know a Brooke Simmons or a Brooke Simons. I've even told you that if I ever did meet Brooke Simmons (or is it Simons, make up your mind!) I would go so far as to tie her to a chair and get you on speaker-phone so you could finally talk to her about how much she still owes you (though I really don't think I could follow through with that, Capital One, I'm just not the torturing type.) I've told you these things again and again, and yet you keep calling me, Capital One Master Card. You keep calling me and asking me if you can speak to her.

Did you know you paid one person to call me three times one day? Did you know you also paid a Capital One manager for 30 minutes of discussion on how Brooke Simmons hasn't had this number for over a year? It's a funny thing, Captial One Master Card, I really am starting to wonder if you haven't spent more money calling me over the past couple of years than you can ever hope to collect from Brooke Simons. I'm pretty sure you're low on her list of debts to pay off, and she seems pretty good at avoiding your Capital One bloodhounds. Don't get me wrong, I've never met her, Capital One Master Card, and I likely never will. I'm just basing that on my long experience with talking to companies she hasn't paid back.

I want you to know, Capital One, that based on my experience with your company I could not possibly consider doing business with you. I did find it funny when Lisa ironically quipped "thank you for choosing Capital One" before handing me to her manager today. Yep, just today. That's right. Little more than two weeks after I took the time to call your Capital One Corporate Office at 1-703-720-1000 on March 9th to complain about the number of Capital One phone calls I've been getting for Brooke Simons, in spite of the fact that I was assured that I wouldn't receive any more phone calls from Capital One representatives looking for Brooke Simons, you are still calling me, still asking me if you can speak with her. I have heard the song and dance about "it can take up to 24 hours to remove the phone number from our system" enough times. I have also heard the recanting of that statement, and the alternative that it can take up to 72 hours enough times, Capital One.

So let's make a deal, Capital One. I am at the beginning of an SEO campaign to make people aware of just how determined you are to keep asking me if you can speak to Brooke Simons. This can be a very long SEO campaign, and I might even start a bidding war with you on pay-per-click traffic with the big 3, or it can be a very short campaign. It's up to you. Each time I get another call from Capital One, I will put as much time as I can deem reasonable into making this story known.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


Have I mentioned how great it is to live in a national park? A couple of nights ago I finally followed through on something I've been wanting to do for the past couple of weeks.
Capitol Reef National Park has a lot of high and dry hikes, a number of slot canyons, and some great overlooks, but I start to feel a bit of desert depression now and then. Yes, the huge cliffs and the monoliths are breathtaking, absolutely amazing, and the view from my back porch is simply awesome, but once in a while I feel like all I'm seeing is dry, dry and more dry. My cure for this is Sulfur Creek.
I had gone up the creek once or twice, but not very far, and I kept telling myself I needed to go through the whole trip. On monday I finally did. I rode my bike up highway 24 to the Chimney Rock trailhead, crossed the road, and followed the wash down into sulfur creek. I actually jogged most of the trip, it was a bit late and I was mostly looking for some real exercise, but whether running, walking, or stopping long enough to pull out the camera, the view was amazing. So glad I took the time.
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