Archive for the ‘Crafts’ Category


How to make hard cider

March 7, 2013

Hello, everyone! As some of you may know, Julie’s working on her “30 by 30” list. For those of you aren’t familiar with this, she came up with a list of 30 things she wanted to do by the time she turned 30. One item on her list included having a guest blogger. That’s where I (her husband, Dave) come in.

I don’t know the first thing about sewing, quilting, cooking, etc. The closest I get to Julie’s craftiness is probably through brewing and winemaking. Along those lines, Julie and I have recently taken an interest in trying our hand at making homemade hard cider. I’ll use this opportunity to share some information about our first attempt and how anyone can make hard cider at home.

First things first, equipment / ingredients:

Cider! (unpasteurized from a local cider mill is suggested)
A stock pot (slightly larger than your volume of hard cider that you want to make)
Wine tannin
Pectic enzyme
Cider yeast
Sanitizer (StarSan or Iodophor, for example)
Fermentation bucket with lid
Racking cane w/ tubing
Potassium metabisulfite
Bottling bucket with spigot
Bottle filler
Bottle caps
Bottle capper

Making hard cider is relatively simple process. Julie and I decided to do a 10 gallon batch, but you can scale the amount to whatever is preferred. You’ll want to use cider without any preservatives, since any preservatives will inhibit or prevent the cider’s ability to ferment into hard cider. We used fresh, unpasteurized cider from our local cider mill.

2012-09-23 16.17.49

One of the key things to keep in mind when you’re fermenting beer/wine/cider, is that bacteria is usually your biggest enemy. Fermentation works by creating an environment in which yeast can consume sugars and undergo a process that results in alcohol being produced. While making an ideal environment for your yeast, you also make an ideal environment for other bacteria to thrive. Bacteria can easily add off flavors to your cider, or ruin it completely.

To kill off any nasties in the unpasteurized cider, we pasteurized the cider by heating it to 170F for 45 minutes in a large brewing pot. Any stock pot will work just fine. In addition to killing off any bacteria, this process will also kill any wild yeast. There are all types of natural yeasts found with any fruit, and each yeast strain will contribute a different flavor profile when allowed to ferment. Wild yeasts could potentially create a wonderful product, or they could be horrible. We chose to kill off any wild yeast so that we could later add our own specially selected yeast strain that is known to produce excellent cider. I feel that cider is too expensive to gamble on wild yeast working out.

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In the last 5 minutes on the heat, we added pectic enzyme, and wine tannin. Pectic enzyme is mainly used to break down pectin to produce a nice, clear looking cider. Wine tannin is used to add a bit of tartness/complexity and will aid in the stability and preservation of your cider. Pectic enzyme is often added in amounts of 1 tsp per 5 gallons, but follow the directions of the package if available. Somewhere between ⅛ tsp and ¼ tsp of wine tannin per gallon should be in a reasonable range depending on the desired tartness.

After pasteurization, it’s especially important that anything that comes in contact with the cider is both clean and sanitized to prevent infection. I recommend using StarSan to sanitize equipment, which is a product available at any local homebrew shop or online.

Now that the cider is pasteurized and the additives are in, you’ll want to bring the cider down to around 68F for fermentation. An easy way to bring the temperature down is to create an ice bath. This involves filling a sink with ice water, putting a sanitized lid over your pot, and letting the pot rest in the water. Remember if you want to stir a little to cool the cider down faster, or use a thermometer to take a temperature reading, that that equipment should be sanitized!

Once cooled, you’ll want to pour the cider into a sanitized vessel that you can use to ferment in. A plastic fermentation bucket with a lid, 20%+ larger than your cider volume, works great. 7.9 gallon buckets are commonly available at homebrew shops and work well for a 5 or 6 gallon batch.

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At this point, you’re ready to add the yeast! Open up a package of your yeast of choice (we used Lalvin EC-1118) and sprinkle it over the top of the cider. Fermentation buckets generally come with a lid that have a small hole drilled so that you can insert an airlock. The airlock allows the CO2 produced by the yeast to be released, while keeping oxygen out. Put the sanitized bucket lid and airlock on the bucket. The airlock should be filled halfway with either StarSan or a cheap alcohol like vodka.

It’s best to leave the cider to ferment in an area that’s as close to 68F as possible. At this point, simply let the bucket sit for four weeks to let the yeast work its magic! You should start to notice the first signs of fermentation (a bubbling airlock) in 12-48 hours after adding the yeast.

Once fermentation is done, you’ll want to used a sanitized racking cane to siphon the cider into a clean/sanitized bottling bucket. Hard cider can be very dry and tart by default, and it often helps to “backsweeten” by adding sugars to sweeten it up a bit. Adding honey or brown sugar to taste is a common practice.

If you add more sugars, fermentation could start up again, which you don’t want, so it’s good to add potassium sorbate (in amounts on label) to halt any further fermentation. It’s probably good to add the potassium sorbate even if you don’t add more sugars just to be sure no fermentation takes place once your cider is bottled. Fermenting cider in bottles can result in dangerous bottle bombs as CO2 pressure increases! It’s also good to add potassium metabisulfite at this point to better preserve the cider. This process will create a still / non-sparkling cider.

Sanitize enough bottles and caps for your volume of cider. Fill your bottles using your bottle filler and then put on the caps with your bottle capper. At this point, your cider is done and bottled! The hardest part now is waiting. Young cider can taste outright horrible at first, with strong sulfur smells. This is normal! The most important advice I can give you at this point is to not pour it out and to simply wait for it to mature. The character of the cider will drastically improve if you let it sit in the bottle for an extended period of the time. You’ll want to age the cider for six months to a year.



Light Bulb Terrariums

September 22, 2011

When I left my old job, I was shocked by how many bags of junk I was hauling home. True, I worked there four years… but seriously, how did I get that much junk in/on one little desk?

Now, I’m presented with a brand new desk… one that I am determined not to junk up… but also want to personalize… see the dilemma?

So far, I have a little calendar, a couple pictures, a couple magnets, and an air plant… and now I’ll have my most recent creation:

A light bulb terrarium:
(I’m a sucker for pandas…)

Since, it was a lot easier to hollow out light bulbs (though, if you try it yourself, I would highly recommend protective eye gear.. you can Google instructions) than I thought it would be, I also made a couple for coworkers:

Little elephant

Blue butterfly… and a close up:


I tried to keep it simple – hollowed out light bulb, sand, preserved moss, tiny air plant and tiny plastic animal.

Now… to keep them alive….


I May Have Lost My Mind

April 19, 2011

So, it turns out trying to work full-time, take two graduate classes (including a capstone class), plan a wedding (or at least finalize details) and have a life is almost totally impossible for me. I say this because next week is finals and in two months Dave and I are getting married.. and wow, my world is a little crazy at the moment.

In cases like this, clearly, the smart thing is to a) join a bag swap and b) pick up a random new culinary hobby. That makes complete sense, right?

Over the weekend, I finished my bag for the pp7 swap. Usually it’s potholders, but this round Amy gave the option of a bag-only swap, too, so I joined it and made the Jane Market Bag. My partner said that she likes red and aqua and I am super enamored with the new Joel Dewberry Aviary line… and so, this bag was created:
I’m really happy with how it turned out. I think I just want to make a couple mug rugs from the scraps as a little extra to send with it.

And as for my new culinary hobby? Charcuterie, who would have thought? Basically, it’s my understanding that charcuterie is cooking and processing meats like sausage, ham, bacon, confit, pates, terrines, etc. I would have never thought I would be interested in it, but then I stumbled across Michael Ruhlman’s blog and well, I got sucked in. In fact, hopefully when I get home today, his book Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing will be waiting for me.

Over the weekend, I tried my hand at Ruhlman’s beef jerky recipe. Here are the results:
Beef Jerky
Strangely, (or not so strangely) it turns out I don’t care for beef jerky, but luckily Dave LOVES it. It was fun to make, so I want to try other kinds, but I will have to rely on him and his brothers to eat it.

I also started some duck prosciutto. It is currently hanging in my basement… hopefully curing? I’ll post with the results once it is done! And, it turns out Butcher & Packer is literally a mile away from my house, how cool is that? Unfortunately, they close at 4:30, so Dave is going to pick me up some curing salt tomorrow (on his day off, because he loves me… or maybe because he loves bacon), so I can get started on turning a pork belly into bacon.

Finals, what finals?

And finally, my mom, Dave’s mom, and his aunt threw me a small, but lovely bridal shower over the weekend. I was really touched by the outpouring of love from my friends and family.

So, I guess, the moral of this blog post is that even though I’m going slightly crazy and my house is full of weird bits of meat right now, things are going mostly good – and that’s plenty for me 🙂


New Cat Bed

November 23, 2010

I made a cat bed the other night for my two kitties.

I made it using a wonderful tutorial posted on Urban Crunch.

The tutorial is for a dog bed, but I scaled it down for a cat bed. My finished cat bed is about 18 x 23 inches. I made it this large because I was hoping that my cats would want to snuggle on it together. They have been sworn enemies for almost 8 years now, so Dave tells me it’s wishful thinking. He’s probably right, but I’m still going to hope.

I didn’t have fleece so I cut up an Ikea pillowcase and it worked amazingly well. I didn’t have polyfill on hand (weird, I know, usually I have tons of it for my pirate sock monkeys), so I used scraps of quilt batting to stuff it. It still needs some more stuffing, but it will do for now. It was the first time I’ve ever sewn a zipper into something and far from perfect, but it get’s the job done and now I’m not afraid of trying to put a zipper into something which is huge for me.

The best part was when I set it on the floor, it was like a magnet for both cats. They love it! Dave took some pictures of them enjoying it.

Here is Jelly on the new cat bed:
Jelly on the bed

And here is Joie. She seems to like it best:
Joie on the bed