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52 Weeks of Bad A** Bacteria – Week 4 – Spontaneous Hard Apple Cider


Fermented Apple Cider - Hard Apple Cider Recipe Follow Me on Pinterest

Welcome to week 4 of the 52 weeks of bad a** bacteria series! I hope you have enjoyed the posts so far. What fun ferments are going on in your kitchen? I hope you have been inspired to join me on my journey to eat more probiotic foods. I know I’ve been having a blast and it really has helped me focus on getting more probiotics into my gut.

This week, I decided to try one of Sandor Katz’s recipes from Wild Fermentation. And, believe me when I say this is the simplest fermented recipe you’ll ever try! The term apple cider is most commonly used to refer a non-alcoholic juice blend made from apples. It is usually cloudy, unlike filtered apple juice, which is clear. The cloudiness comes from the bits of apple pulp that are left in the juice. The best apple cider will be unpasteurized and kept in the refrigerated sections of the grocery store. Many places only sell it seasonally since it has a very short shelf life.

The term hard cider, or cyder, refers to the alcoholic drink made from fermented apples. The flavor and alcohol levels will vary, depending on the types of apples used and the amount of fermentation time. Wikipedia says:

“Conventional apple cider has a relatively high concentration of phenolics, namely hydroxycinnamic acid derivatives, monomeric and oligomeric flavan-3-ols, dihydrochalcones and flavonols, andantioxidants which may be helpful for preventing heart disease, cancer, and other ailments. This is, in part, because apples themselves have a fairly high concentration of phenolics.”

During the Colonial Period of the United States, apple cider was the most common beverage consumed with meals because the water was unsafe to drink. They had a mildly alcoholic version called Ciderkin that was given to children. It was made from the dregs of stronger apple cider and was very weak. Sometimes ginger or molasses would be mixed in.

Before this little experiment, I had no idea that cider was such a fascinating drink. Wikipedia has an extensive entry about what constitutes cider in various parts of the world. If you’re at all interested in this fermented apple drink, I recommend checking out Wiki’s full post.

Like I said before, this really is the simplest fermented beverage you’ll ever make. All you need is one jug of unpasteurized apple cider, some cheesecloth, and a few days.

Spontaneous Apple Cider

from Wild Fermentation 

Apple cider

Cheesecloth

Rubber band

Fermented apple cider - hard apple cider recipe Follow Me on Pinterest

Get the best quality apple cider you can find. Better yet, if you have a juicer and access to organic apples, juice your own. Apples have been ridiculously expensive recently, so I didn’t have access to fresh apples for juicing. Thankfully, we have a local source for apple cider from Delicious Orchards, which is located in the North Fork Valley area of Colorado. The brand of cider that they sell at my local Vitamin Cottage is called Big B’s.

If you can’t juice your own, then check your local health food store. They should sell fresh cider in either 1/2 gallon or gallon jugs. If it’s in a glass jug, all you need to do is bring it home, take off the lid, put some cheesecloth and a rubber band over the mouth of the jar and leave it alone. If it’s in a plastic jug, you’ll need to transfer it into a glass container. Cover with the cheesecloth and rubber band. Big B’s comes in a plastic jug, so I poured mine into a glass mason jar.

Once you secure the cheesecloth, leave the cider out at room temperature for 5-7 days. I just sat mine on my kitchen counter off to the side where it wouldn’t be disturbed. Check the cider daily for mold. If you get little flecks of white mold, just gently skim them off the top. Also, taste the cider daily so you can really see how the taste changes. I would just take a clean straw and gently insert it under the foam and sip.

The fermentation process will vary depending on the temperature of your kitchen. My house stays at 68 degrees and this is how my fermentation process went:

Day 1 – The pulp settled on the bottom. No activity. Sweet and fresh tasting.

Day 2 – Not much activity. Still smelled and tasted like sweet apple juice.

fermented apple cider - hard apple cider Follow Me on Pinterest Day 3 – A tan foam appeared on the surface about an inch thick. Some of the brown pulp rose and settled on top of the foam. Still tasted sweet, but had a very faint yeasty smell. I had a few flecks of white mold, each about the size of a grain of sand, which I gently skimmed off the top. Bubbles of carbonation were starting to appear along the sides of the jar. The two pics in this post were from day 3.

Day 4 – The foam remains. The yeasty smell was much stronger and the cider tasted faintly like wine. Still sweet, but not as sweet as Day 3 and very lightly fizzy. Two teeny, tiny flecks of mold that I skimmed off.

Day 5 – Foam remains. Strong yeasty smell and the cider was only slightly sweet, yet mildly tart. Very fizzy and refreshing. I decided to bottle it at this point.

The thing that I found so fascinating about this process was how quickly things changed from one day to another. When I went to bed on Day 2, there was no foam, but when I woke up on Day 3, there was a thick layer of foam on the top. On Day 4, the juice was still pretty sweet, but by Day 5, the sweetness was very faint. You could leave it longer, but I decided to bottle after Day 5 because I didn’t want it to get too tart.

I bottled the cider in the same flip top bottles (affiliate link) that I used for my kombucha (see the title pic in this post). After I bottled the cider, I left them out at room temperature (in a covered box, just in case something exploded) for 2 days and then moved to the fridge. Just like your kombucha, the juice will slowly continue to ferment as it ages, so the flavor will change a little. The beverage is very refreshing and mildly alcoholic, so enjoy in moderation. I just bought a hydrometer to test the alcohol levels in my fermented beverages, but I have not gotten around to testing this one yet. I will update this post when I do.

So, tell me. Have you made hard apple cider before? How about wine, mead, or beer? I personally am having so much fun with these fermentation projects and I can’t wait to keep experimenting!

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About Jessica Espinoza

Jessica is a real food nut, coconut everything enthusiast, avid reader and researcher, blossoming yogi, and animal lover. She has had a life-long passion for food and being in the kitchen is where she is the happiest. Jessica started Delicious Obsessions in 2010 as a way to help share her love for food and cooking. Since then, it has grown into a trusted online resource with a vibrant community of people learning to live healthy, happy lives through real food and natural living.

Discussion

61 comments

  1. I have some apple cider that has turned “hard” in my fridge. Any idea if I can mix it with some Bragg’s ACV in a glass jar, cover with cheesecloth and let it sit until it turns into vinegar? It seems like it would work, but I’m wondering if anyone has tried with success…

    reply 

    Tiffany A.
    Posted 01/30/12

    • Great question, Tiffany. You know, I’m not sure. In theory, it would work, but I have not tried it. I poked around on the Wild Fermentation forum a little and there does seem to be some stuff on there about apple cider. Might be worth exploring. Do you think you’ll drink the cider as is? If not, I’d say go for it and try to get it to turn to vinegar — no harm in trying! :) Here’s the link to the forum: http://www.wildfermentation.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=2&sid=c2c6fbaf98d76200cacd1f4868a091c9. Let me know if you have any luck!

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 01/30/12

      • I’ve been reading about this. If you have a mother from your organic raw apple cider vinegar, you can put it in with your apple juice/fermented or not and let the mother feed just like kombucha. You’ll have apple cider vinegar after no time at all. No need to actually add vinegar.

        reply 

        Jen
        Posted 04/29/12

      • We make Apple Jack from cider we press. In a glass gallon jug leave a 3 inch space. Add one grated potato the size of a womans fist, 1 pound of dark brown sugar and 1 cup of raisins Drill a hole in the cap, insert small plastic tube (like the tubes used by people on oxygen) about a fot long. do not put tube in cider, leave end in air space, put other end in a quart of water, end in the water. Melt wax around the cap and tbe to seal. Leave in cool dry place away from direct sun. It will bubble after a few days, when it quits bubbling (depends but usually 3-4 weeks) filter it and put in glass capped glass bottles or canning jars. yes drink in moderation, strong but tasty!

        reply 

        Cheryl Bryant
        Posted 08/24/14

    • Tiffany: Sure! This link offers both a recipe for using it in a drink, and below that, how to make it.
      http://culturedfoodlife.com/how-to-make-your-own-vinegar-apple-cider-drink/

      reply 

      Thia
      Posted 01/31/12

  2. I will definitely try this. EASY is the word that grabs my attention! Can you keep it in the fridge indefinitely once you bottle it up?

    reply 

    Anne
    Posted 01/30/12

    • Easy, easy!! I hope you enjoy! I’m assuming you could keep it indefinitely, but I’ve read that it does continue to ferment and will probably get pretty tart after some time. I’m going to keep a bottle in there to test that theory. I’ll let you know in 6 months! :)

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 01/30/12

  3. I have been so meaning to try this too! I can get raw organic apple cider, but it’s so expensive. It sure would be fun as a special treat! Thanks for posting this, I shared it on facebook!

    reply 

    lydia
    Posted 01/31/12

    • Thanks Lydia. Yeah. It is pricey. Not sure what the price is in your area, but it’s $4.99 a half gallon here. Hope you enjoy!

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 02/02/12

  4. This is really cool! They don’t sell fresh cider here, but I could probably jucie some apple myself and try, it seems so easy and fun!
    I found your site yesterday and I’m loving it! :D

    reply 

    Linn
    Posted 01/31/12

    • Hi Linn! Thanks for stopping by. So glad you found me and left a comment. Yes, juicing your own apples would be ideal! I want to try that next time. But, apples have been so outrageous here that it was actually cheaper to buy the fresh juice! Hope you enjoy!

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 02/02/12

      • I have been brewing for sometime now…
        I just picked up 5gal of unpasturized cider (from a local farm up here in VT) I brought a carboy and they filled it for about $20. I know I know, they practically give it away up here ^_^
        I never naturally ferment anything..yes, it’s possible but not always a good idea. I kill the natural yeast in the cider ASAP, yes, the ethanol will kill most bacteria though; there is a stain of E.Coli you really need to watch out for. I kill the yeast with 2 Tabs and pitch Wyeast Cider yeast. 1. gives a much better flavor to any cider/mead but, also puts the abv% upt to 10+. Naturally fermented cider can only push 4-4.7% abv. Nothing wrong with that, but hardly “brewing.”
        Cider will stop fermenting once put in the fridge as the yeast (no yeast) can survive the cold. There is also, the option of ‘bottle conditioning’ your cider. Called PRIMING – I always do this, so that I have more of a champange like feel. I will be ‘dry hopping’ 2gal of my cider with Cascade hops and I’ll let that sit for about 7-10 days. Then bottle.
        If you have any Q’s on brewing hit me up on Facebook – search: Sugarwater Brewing Company.

        reply 

        AyeJaye
        Posted 10/17/12

        • Thanks for the tips. I don’t plan on doing any more of this type of brewing, as I rarely drink alcohol, but it was a fun experiment. I was following what Sandor Katz instructs in his book. Most beer, cider, wine, etc. brewing is far too complicated for me, so I’ll leave that to the experts! :)

          reply 

          Jessica
          Posted 10/17/12

  5. Fabulous post, thank you! One question – what about all the foam? Skim it off before bottling? Leave it be? Stir it back in?

    reply 

    Dellaina
    Posted 01/31/12

    • Hi there! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I just put a lid on my jar and shook all the foam back in and bottled it. Sandor didn’t give any indication as to whether to skim it off or not, so I just decided not to skim it. I hope you enjoy!

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 02/02/12

    • If there is foam, then your ‘must’ isn’t done fermenting. There will be no activity when the yeast is done “eating.”
      Rack it when it’s done and let it sit another 30 days. Rack it again, and bottle it.

      reply 

      AyeJaye
      Posted 02/19/13

  6. Every site I see on the Internet mentions using yeast to start the fermentation process. Also, is unpasteurized apple cider absolutely necessary? Again, most sites I’ve been to says that pasteurized is OK and the only thing that you absolutely don’t want is preservatives. If unpasteurized is necessary can I just squeeze my own store-bought apples (any kind?).

    reply 

    Jeff
    Posted 02/01/12

    • Jeff – I think the yeasts come into play when you’re making beer and wine (and mead?). For this apple cider, the yeasts that are in the air and the environment are enough to get things going. I also think that if you use pasteurized apple cider, then you will need added yeast. Sandor specifically says unpasteurized in his book and I’m guessing that’s to ensure that any beneficial organisms that might be in the juice are still there. I am by no means an expert, but that is my educated guess :). I’d recommend checking out the Wild Fermentation forum if you haven’t already. TONS of great info: http://www.wildfermentation.com/forum/

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 02/02/12

  7. After the E coli outbreak in the mid ’90s it became very difficult to get unpasteurized apple cider. It’s worth adding a bit of yeast to pasteurized (baking will work fine, though you may end up happier with the taste from yeast from a brewers’ store) to get it started quicker, as once the yeast get going they discourage other less pleasant bugs. There’s yeast in the air which will eventually work, but maybe not until after other bugs have turned it icky.

    reply 

    Read
    Posted 03/19/12

  8. Hi Jessica,

    So, we made Agua de Sandia from a giant CSA watermelon a few weeks ago. We didn’t get through all of it (it was a 32 lb. watermelon!), and now I’m starting to see some bubbles on the top of the remaining juice. I think it’s starting to ferment in our refrigerator.

    I admit, I’m intrigued by the idea of watermelon cider. But I’m also worried about bad bacteria. So my first question is: is this fermenting cider safe to drink? Or should I throw it out?

    And if it is safe, what can I do to encourage it in the right direction? Add yeast? Add some honey? We added very little sugar originally, it was such a sweet watermelon.

    Thanks!

    reply 

    Jackie M.
    Posted 09/19/12

    • Hi Jackie – I am sorry it took me so long to reply! I am not sure about this and don’t really know enough to advise! Sorry! :(

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 01/09/13

  9. How awesome is this post?!! I love this information.

    reply 

    Lori Roop
    Posted 10/05/12

  10. I just love your blogs on fermenting. It’s new to me. I’m going to try making hard cider as my first project. All the folks who answered you really were helpful too! Thanks to all of you! I plan on using a plastic water jug as a carboy. Is there some reason that would be bad? I was able to get some proper cider yeast. Now, I’m trying to figure out if it needs sugar added. I also plan to make up some cider vinegar from the alcohol.

    reply 

    SJ Smith
    Posted 10/20/12

    • Hi SJ – You know, I am absolutely no help on this one! The spontaneous cider is the only beverage I’ve fermented, other than kombucha and water kefir. Hopefully another reader can tune in and offer some suggestions! :)

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 10/20/12

    • plastic water jugs let in oxygen, though this “spontaneous brewing” thing doesn’t seem too worried about that…call me the over obsessed brewer but I typically insist on glass or at least a food grade plastic fermenter. another concern is if you’re going to be reusing the container-the softer non food grade material will gouge and leave little pockets for your uglies to hang out in (uglies ruin booze)

      reply 

      Redhadj
      Posted 12/12/12

  11. Does wild fermentation mention any thing about it being possible to do this with other unpasturized juices as well? And if so, can you mix different fruit juices together (apple & grape perhaps since they are both commonly used for fermenting)?

    reply 

    Dunori
    Posted 11/09/12

    • Dunori – I don’t remember if it did, and I for the life of me can’t find my copy, but I would think that you could. Perhaps try a small batch and see what happens? If you do, let me know how it goes! If I find the book, I will see what he says.

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 11/10/12

  12. Did you prime your cider before bottling? If so, home much dextrose (or other sugar?) did you add?

    I’ve run a few batches of apple and pineapple ciders over the past 2 years. My very first batch was bottled in those same Bormioli swing-top clear glass bottles and they ALL broke during 2nd fermntation/priming. I don’t think these bottles are thick enough to handle the added pressure. I’ve since switched to using old Grolsch green glass swing-top bottles (bought for $2.50 each and full of beer; cheaper than buying them empty from a hoembrew supplier). I’ve also read that thicker IKEA swing-top glass bottles have worked, too, but they are clear and not ideal for long-term storage of ciders.

    reply 

    linecook
    Posted 01/22/13

    • Hi there – I am not sure what you mean by “prime”. I am definitely not an expert and savvy to the brew ling. I did do a second ferment with it, but it was just the straight cider. It got pretty strong. I also use the Grolsch bottles. I think they’re the best out there. :)

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 01/24/13

    • Simple rule of thumb, 1oz of primer per gallon.
      Though with cider, if ur NOT using campden tablets I’d go about
      1/2 oz per gallon
      Cheers! (17)

      reply 

      AyeJaye
      Posted 02/14/13

  13. I asked my wife to juice a box of apples that we got at our local farmers market because they were bruised and getting soft. I searched online and found your site about making fermented hard cider. Thanks for the recipe!

    reply 

    mark
    Posted 01/23/13

    • Thanks for stopping by Mark! I hope you enjoy the cider! :)

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 01/24/13

  14. My grandpa used to make hard cider. I don’t know what his recipe was but we grew up on it. As children 5 of us closely aged cousins would ask grandpa for some “juice” he would give us BIG tumblers full of “apple jack” it was actually really yummy and we used to behave pretty well for grandpa because we were all sleepy from hard cider. Not that I am encouraging getting your kids high on cider but these are some of my happy childhood memories. It’s a shame that none of us has grandpa’s recipe. I may try to make some cider myself.

    reply 

    Nichole
    Posted 02/12/13

    • Hi Nichole – Thanks for sharing that great story! That sounds like something my family would do! :) I think Grandpa had an ulterior motive, huh? Sleepy kids are much easier to watch! :)

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 02/12/13

  15. Hi Jessica,

    I love all of the information and stories for people; this is what it’s all about :)
    Have you tried to add a few water kefir grains to the cider? I’ve read that this would kick start the ferment and give some added probiotics. I am going to do some experimenting and will let you know how it goes.
    Take care everyone!

    reply 

    Troy
    Posted 08/20/13

    • Hi Troy – I have not tried that. I’ll add it to my list! :)

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 08/20/13

  16. Hi Jessica,

    I was just searching for answers about the apple cider I buy that gets a slightly moldy smell or taste after a few days. Not that am trying to ferment it but, I just wonder if it is still safe to drink when you smell mold. Any ideas? Thanks,
    Wendy

    reply 

    wendy
    Posted 09/03/13

    • Hi Wendy – If you suspect there is mold, I would not drink it. Fresh apple cider will go bad faster than pasteurized, however, I’ve always had it last for a week or so without any off smelling. Hope that helps!

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 09/04/13

  17. What if I have pasteurized apple cider will it still work?

    reply 

    Austin c
    Posted 09/06/13

    • Hi Austin – Pasteurized apple cider won’t work, as it won’t be able to cultivate any good bacteria and yeasts. The pasteurization process kills all of the microorganisms needed for proper fermentation. Hope that helps!

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 09/06/13

  18. Did you ever end up testing it to see what the alcohol content was?

    reply 

    Stacey
    Posted 03/17/14

    • Hi Stacey – No, I never did get around to testing it. Next time I make it, I will try to remember to do that!

      reply 

      Jessica Espinoza
      Posted 03/17/14

  19. Can I use thus same process with pears? I have an abundance this year and want to juice them and was hoping for some good bacteria to go with it.

    reply 

    emily
    Posted 08/17/14

    • HI Emily – I’ve never used pears before, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. Just juice them and use the juice in place of the apple cider in the recipe. If you do make it, let me know how it turns out. I think it will be delicious! :)

      reply 

      Jessica Espinoza
      Posted 08/17/14

  20. Hi Jessica, I made apple juice from fresh transparent apples and put the juice in gallon glass jars trying to make hard cider. That was six days ago and nothing is happening. It tastes like apple juice,but no fermentation at all. the juice has been stored in the dark and around 65deg.What am I doing wrong?
    Thanks
    Jeff

    reply 

    Jeff
    Posted 08/18/14

    • Hi Jeff – I am not sure! I have always had it start fermenting within 24 hours. It could be a number of things. I’d recommend checking out the Wild Fermentation forum: http://www.wildfermentation.com/forum/. Lots of great info over there and they probably have some stuff already posted on the apple cider. I’ve learned a lot on that site!

      reply 

      Jessica Espinoza
      Posted 08/23/14

  21. Not sure if anyone asked this already, but is there any risk of botulism?

    reply 

    Mo
    Posted 08/26/14

  22. Thank you. I really appreciate it!!

    reply 

    Mo
    Posted 08/28/14

  23. After watching the video I am no longer worried about botulism—however, do I need to worry about having a bad hair cut? LOL. Thanks again!

    reply 

    Mo
    Posted 08/28/14

  24. Hi, I just started learning about fermentation and probiotics. I have organic apples but can’t seem to find out if I need (or can) use a champion juicer, squeezo or steam juicer to make the apple juice. Thanks for your help.

    reply 

    Janyce Thompson
    Posted 08/31/14

    • Janyce – You will want to use fresh, unpasteurized (heated) juice, so using your Champion should work nicely! Enjoy!

      reply 

      Jessica Espinoza
      Posted 09/01/14

  25. Hey there, just started the process for this cider, i juiced my own apples. My question is, does this have to sit out in the light, or can I put it in my cabinet while it is fermenting? We have fruit flies something awful this year, don’t want this fermentation to attract more.

    reply 

    Jen
    Posted 09/02/14

    • Hi Jen – No light is needed. Placing it in a cabinet would be OK, but you do want to have some airflow, so maybe keep the cabinet door cracked a little. Hope it turns out well!

      reply 

      Jessica Espinoza
      Posted 09/04/14

      • Awesome, thanks! It’s starting to look great! It has nice dark brown foam and some bubbles! And no sign of mold!! Yay!

        reply 

        Jen
        Posted 09/04/14

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