Wisconsin’s got a lot of apples, both orchards with delicious, hearty varieties and also the determined trees growing wild within the city in empty lots, front yards with disinterested residents and locked behind chain link fences. Our first task was to gather the wild apples and with just one lap around the neighborhood we gathered nearly three bushels of apples.
While wild apples like these are generally my favorite, being for the most part quite tart, we weren’t gathering them for eating, we had hard cider on the mind.
The following Friday we went out to Barthel’s Fruit farm in the morning and took advantage of their $5/bushels of windfall Idared’s. After a couple lovely hours spent under the blue sky in the apple orchard, crawling around on hands and knees under apple trees, we took home another four bushels of apples.
And then the pressing began. With the good fortune of amazing friends, once more Jill and Eleanor came to the rescue–as did Luther, convienetly a master brewer in town–to help get it all pressed in a race against the sunset. With the help of some motivational hard ciders, we did it!
By the end of the night we pressed about 5 gallons of the most delicious apple cider I’d ever tasted. In addition to the four gallons we’ve got fermenting with the help of Ale yeast, I set aside a gallon and with inspiration from the wonderful book “Wild Fermentation” am doing it natural without the aid of yeast to get it going. Here’s the jug my wild fermenting batch is in. Now that it’s been five days there’s a good film that’s formed on the top, a sure sign it’s getting busy fermenting up in there.
But that’s not all, I’m also experimenting with making Apple Jack, a non-distilled apple liquor. During the pressing I scooped up two big stock pots full of the leftover apple mush, added some water to prevent it from scorching and cooked it down for five hours or so. Sunday morning when it was cool I combined both batches into my enamel stock pot, added a package of champagne yeast, gave it a good stir and wished it luck before heading out on our bike trip to Madison.
Now that I’m back from the trip, everything seems to be bubbling away quite contently. On Monday I’ll probably strain the Apple Jack and move the juice into a carboy where it’ll ferment further, and as for the wild ferment, I think I’ll let it go on my counter for a couple more weeks.