Rachel is a soap-making, wine-brewing small farmer in Minnesota. She runs One23 Farm with her husband, a dozen sheep, and a blue heeler dog.
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 to 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 too, if you're interested in that instead.)
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- 2 gallons 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—but starting with quality helps ensure quality in the end.)
- 9–10 pounds pears, sliced and/or chopped, seeds and stems removed
- 1 packet wine yeast, (Lalvin EC1118 or EC1122 is what I recommend)
- About 3 gallons 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 over the into the bucket, on top of the pears. This is a form of flash-pastuerization, 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 five gallons of stuff 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 1 to 2 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 quick!
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 1 to 3 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 1 to 3 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 6 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 today, at the end of August, 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
Spencer Adkisson on November 21, 2018:
Hi Rachel, I am trying this recipe right now. I'm following it to a T. Same buckets, same yeast. The only difference is that I am using a sweet apple cider that from apples that I picked and pressed myself from my yard. The pears also came from my yard.
Today I racked the cider into a second clean plastic bucket now that the primary fermentation is over. I used a cheesecloth-type bag that was held open over a colander that was sitting on the rim of the empty bucket. No siphon here. That worked well because I could get all the fruit chunks out, and then squeeze the bag a bit to get more of the precious cider into the bucket.
So far, so good! It looks good and actually smells good in a depraved sort of way. I have every reason to be optimistic that this batch will turn out as I had hoped. I guess I will let you know in 3-6 months! haha.
Thanks for the recipe. This is my first time trying to make hard cider, though I have wanted to do it for a long time. It is pretty simple. I wish I had the courage to try this sooner.
Rachel Koski Nielsen (author) from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota on March 20, 2018:
Brian, the seeds are removed because they don't contribute anything positive to the cider and you want to avoid unnecessary things in your fermentation vessel.
Adding extra sugar to this recipe will likely result in a product closer in alcohol content to wine (10+%) than cider (4-6%). It's up to you if you want a higher alcohol content. The beverage won't be sweeter just by adding extra sugar unless you do something to arrest fermentation - there are additives you can buy to accomplish that.
I would be careful adding sugar during bottling because if you have enough active fermentation still going on, the added sugar will be fermented and the resulting gas can break your seals or bottles. It can get explosive.
Brian Simpson on March 12, 2018:
Hello. I was wondering why you remove the seeds. Is this to reduce bitterness? Also the addition of sugar, is this bypassed by your addition of the apple cider?
I have just made a batch of pear cider using 1 gallon pulped washed pears no stem, 4 kg white sugar and 6 gallons water approx with the same yeast and pectinaise. Thinking of adding sugar to each bottle for carbonisation after brew finishes.
Thoughts or suggestions would be great.
Rachel Koski Nielsen (author) from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota on November 07, 2017:
@Potcherboy - actually, you don't need to reduce the yeast. It will just ferment faster if you don't, which won't cause any harm or change the final result.
Potcherboy on November 05, 2017:
I’m assuming if I half the recipe I should half the amount of yeast—corrrct
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on November 04, 2015:
Rachel, this sounds delicious and tempting to try. I would love to buy a store-brought version of it,since it seems daunting to make at home. Thanks for sharing this great recipe!
Rachel Koski Nielsen (author) from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota on September 08, 2012:
mvillecat - Thanks for the comment! Cherry wine was actually the first wine I ever made - it was back in summer 2010, the last time the cherry tree here at the farm produced anything worth harvesting. It was my best wine and I can't wait for the chance to make more. I love homemade wines and ciders. I think it's the sulfites/sulfates that turn me off to store-bought stuff. Since I started making my own, and I never went back!
Catherine Dean from Milledgeville, Georgia on September 08, 2012:
I drank homemade wine for the first time a few nights ago at a social gathering. This guy had made apple and cherry. I cannot believe how many people consumed that wine because it was so wonderful. I don't think he took anything home with him. I like the apple best. Great hub.
Rachel Koski Nielsen (author) from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota on August 30, 2012:
bd - Always nice to hear from you, thanks for the comment and votes, shares, etc! I learned by doing, haha. The real truth is that it's not hard. Something sweet and tasty + yeast = something tasty that will give you a buzz! And thank you so much for your kind words about my writing, I do try. Guess my English degree wasn't totally worthless ;)
Jake - I hope you will try it! This is a pretty easy one. Don't worry about the risk of a bad batch of homebrew. While it can happen, if your equipment is clean and your yeast is good, you should be fine! If you're not sure about a finished product, smell it, then taste it. If it tastes bad, age it. If it still tastes bad, chuck it! The only time I've made icky stuff was when I used old plastic gallon jugs and cheap apple juice :)If you just want plain cider, I have a hub on that, too. Thanks for reading and commenting!
Jake Frost from London, United Kingdom on August 30, 2012:
I definitely think this is a recipe I shall be trying.
I have read all these stories about people that brew their own 'beverages' and was always to scared to give it ago myself. These easy to understand instructions make it near impossible to fail.
Thanks for taking the time to write this great hub.
Voted up, and (almjst definitely) useful
Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on August 30, 2012:
Rachel, you definitely have a knack for brewing these tasty beverages. How on earth did you learn all of this? I also need to add that your writing skills are exceptional, you have a wonderful way of explaining things and it just flows naturally. Another great job. Certainly worthy of a vote up, share, etc. I will post to my twitter, pinterest, etc. also.