Don't Judge Those Old, Ugly Fruit Trees
The old, ugly pear tree in my orchard gave me a great idea this summer. It lives next door to the old, ugly peach tree. If you read my article on making peach wine, you might remember my sad little story about the peach tree and how I inadvertently donated its harvest to the deer, raccoons, and maybe my goat. I learned a good lesson there.
Armed with experience, I picked every pear within arm’s reach off of the tree (as well as what I could reach climbing!) as soon as the fruit was edible. After losing all of my peaches, I wasn’t going to let these pears alone.
It may have been a bad year for corn, tomatoes, peaches (and just about everything else), but from what I can tell, it was a banner season for pears.
Twenty-five pounds of pears later, and one bump on the nose from some silly branch-shaking maneuver, I was ready to make some country wine. But to be honest, I’ve been boring myself a little with my simple single-fruit fermented beverages. So for this recipe, let’s take two things we know to be delicious and make something a little more unique! (I have a simple hard apple cider recipe if you're interested in that instead.)
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- 2 gallons of good-quality sweet apple cider (I bought my sweet cider from a local orchard. Apple juice from the store will work, as long as it doesn't have preservatives. Starting with quality helps ensure quality in the end.)
- 9 to 10 pounds of pears, sliced and/or chopped, with seeds and stems removed
- 1 packet wine yeast, (Lalvin EC1118 or EC1122 is what I recommend)
- About 3 gallons of water
- A 5-gallon bucket for primary fermentation
- An airlock
- Knife for cutting and slicing
- Tubing for racking the cider
- A second 5-gallon container (bucket, carboy, jug, etc.) for secondary fermentation
Instructions for Making Apple Pear Cider
- Make a yeast starter: pour a little cider into a cup. Add the yeast. Set this out at room temperature. You'll know it's "working" when the mixture gets cloudy and foamy.
- Wash the pears. Remove the stems. Cut up the pears, discarding brown spots, seeds, and any other parts that look a little questionable. Put the cut-up pears in the bottom of your clean and sanitary primary fermentation container.
- Boil about one gallon of water. Pour the boiling water into the bucket, on top of the pears. This is a form of flash-pasteurization, and should take care of any bacteria or wild yeast that might have been clinging to the fruit.
- Into the bucket goes the sweet apple cider!
- Stir the mixture.
- Add the remaining water, about 2 gallons, until you have a total of 5 gallons of the mixture in the bucket.
- Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. DO NOT add the yeast until the mixture is cool—high temperatures will kill your yeast!
- When the mixture is room temperature, pitch the yeast starter into it. Give it a little stir.
- If you are using a brewing bucket (like I have), put the lid on the bucket and affix an airlock. If you're using a regular bucket (nothing wrong with that!) simply cover the bucket with some tight plastic wrap. Make sure flies and other fruit-loving creatures can't get in.
- Now you basically play the waiting game!
Primary Cider Fermentation
Primary fermentation should take one to two weeks with this recipe. Regardless, I wouldn't leave the cider sitting with the fruit for much longer than that.
During this time, you'll see lots of activity in the airlock (if you're using one). The bubbles should slow down after about a week. At this point, you can rack the cider into a secondary fermentation container. This could be another bucket, a glass carboy, or a big bottle.
If you're using plastic wrap instead of a lid with an airlock, you'll probably notice the plastic wrap swelling during primary fermentation. This is the result of a buildup of carbon dioxide gas, a natural by-product of fermentation. You should remove the plastic wrap briefly every so often to allow the gas to escape. Again, after about one week, you will probably notice that there doesn't seem to be as much gas building up in the bucket. Time to rack the cider!
Racking the Cider
Racking is a simple procedure in which a tube is used to siphon the liquid cider off of the sediments and other solids (including the pears).
To rack the cider using plastic tubing, place the bucket up on a table near the edge. Place the secondary fermentation container (whatever you've chosen to use) under the bucket, either on the floor or on a chair. Put one end of the tube down into the cider, but not all the way to the bottom of the bucket. In other words, try not to disturb the sediments with the tube. Suck on the other end of the tube until the cider flows, and get the tube into the secondary fermentation container quickly before you lose your precious beverage—it comes out quickly!
Alternatively, if you don't feel like using tubing for this first racking, you could just pour all of the liquid through cheesecloth to remove the solids. You'll want to rack the cider by siphoning eventually, at least when you bottle it, but for now, it's not completely necessary.
Secondary Fermentation and Aging
Secondary fermentation should take one to three months. This simply means that you will allow the cider to continue to ferment in the carboy or jug. This is usually a slower, less active fermentation, as most of the fruit sugars have already been used up.
The other purpose of secondary fermentation is to allow the cider to begin to clear—to allow the solid particles to fall out of suspension and collect on the bottom of the container so that your final product will be more or less clear, rather than "soupy" looking.
So basically, wait around for one to three months, then rack the cider again. This time, you can separate the five-gallon batch into bottles if you'd like. I prefer 1-gallon bottles, as this makes my life simpler! Old wine bottles with clean and sanitary, and undamaged, corks work just fine. Jars with tight lids work well, too.
Aging Your Cider
The recommended aging period for cider is three months. This doesn't mean it won't be tasty three months after you started it! I'll wager that if you tried this recipe at the end of August, for example, you'd be drinking delicious apple-pear cider in January.
But of course, the longer you allow the cider to age, the better it will be. That's part of why I like making larger batches—drink some, age some!
Is 5 Gallons a Little More Than You're Looking For?
This recipe is for 5 gallons of apple-pear cider, but it can be scaled down to as little as 1 gallon by dividing the ingredients. For instance, a 1-gallon batch of this stuff would call for 1/2 gallon of sweet cider, 1/2 gallon water, and 1 1/2 pounds of pears.
In general, try to include 1 gallon of water for every 3 pounds of pears used.
© 2012 Rachel Koski Nielsen