MODERN CIDERING: Try your hand at making cider — or — enjoy some of the locally-made refreshment

Dressler Estate is aging cider in this barrel from Manatawny Still Works.
Dressler Estate is aging cider in this barrel from Manatawny Still Works. PHOTO BY EMILY RYAN
Hogshead “was actually a unit of measurement,” says Frecon cider maker Jamie Bock.
Hogshead “was actually a unit of measurement,” says Frecon cider maker Jamie Bock. Photo courtesy of Frecon Farms

Getting started…

Eager to bottle your own cider? Clear some space, head to a home-brew store and follow these tips.

“For every batch that you make, you need two fermenting vessels” — one for fermentation and one for conditioning, said Mark Turdo of Pommel Cyder.

Also buy an auto-siphon, drilled rubber stoppers and airlocks, which he seals with “the cheapest vodka” instead of water. Plus, don’t forget “good sanitizing solution and brushes to clean everything.”

“To make cider, you do lots of dishes. You’re endlessly cleaning things,” Turdo explained. “You want to make sure things are cleaned and sanitized.”

Ferment the cider in a glass jug and use an auto-siphon to transfer it for conditioning. In cider terms, “rack it off and let it sit for several months.”

“Typically, the longer you let things condition and mellow, the better the cider will be,” said the DIYer, who ferments his cider “about a month” and conditions it for four to six months before bottling.

“It’s an awful lot of fun to make something you can share with others, and they can enjoy as much as you do,” he described.

Read more about the process and find resources at https://pommelcyder.wordpress.com/.

Turdo also presents “Cider: Pennsylvania’s Once (and Future?) Favorite” at the Bachmann Publick House in Easton Saturday, April 7 from 5 to 7 p.m.

— By Emily Ryan

“Do you want to see the cidery?” asked Brian Dressler of Dressler Estate, leading the way to a converted garage in Downingtown.

MORE

Looking for some more cidering inspiration? Check these websites for lists of other cideries in Pennsylvania (check with the venues before venturing out):

Pennsylvania Cider Guild: http://paciderguild.org/cideries.html

Pennsylvania Cider Map & Directory: https://ciderguide.com/pennsylvania-cider-map-directory/

Cider Culture: https://www.ciderculture.com/cideries/state/pa/

“A hobby turned into obsession,” joked the mechanical engineer by trade, who now produces 30 cases of cider a month, taking “a winemaker’s approach.”

MAKE A NOTE

The PA Cider Festival is set for June 23 in Biglerville (Adams County).

For details, tickets and more, check www.paciderfest.com/

“Cider is easy to make. It’s fun to make and to enjoy. It’s also a lot more than people traditionally think about,” he said. “It can be something very nice, very beautiful.”

EVENT

Mark Turdo also presents “Cider: Pennsylvania’s Once (and Future?) Favorite” at the Bachmann Publick House in Easton Saturday, April 7 from 5 to 7 p.m.

Intrigued? “For under $30, you can make a batch of cider,” Dressler added. “If you go to Whole Foods, they have a pretty nice apple juice blend. It’s only $8 a gallon, and it already comes in the glass jug you can ferment it in.”

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At home-brew stores, find yeast, rubber stoppers, airlocks, which “let carbon dioxide come out, but don’t let air in,” and an auto-siphon for transferring cider between containers.

“You can do this with just a few tools. I started off pretty low-tech,” said fellow enthusiast Mark Turdo, author of the Pommel Cyder blog and curator of the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. “I have a little game with myself. How can I do this as easily and cheaply as possible?”

His focus: historic cider, once spelled cyder.

“You can read an eighteenth- or seventeenth-century cider manual and read nothing else and make really good cider today,” he explained. “The process is the same. Some of the advice is the same. There’s a wonderful continuity to it.”

“It’s kind of neat that the original beverage is coming back,” agreed Jamie Bock, cider maker at Frecon Farms in Boyertown.

Using Frecon apples, including old cider varieties, he bottles 9,000 gallons a year with names like Early Man, Crabby Granny and Hogshead.

“This time of year, I think Hogshead is one of my favorite ones. It’s strong. It’s oaky,” he described. “It’s fermented with brown sugar and raisins.”

Experiment with sugar, different yeasts, a combination of fruit juices and more. Or simply stick to the basics.

“People will make it sound very scientific. It can be as easy as put all your ingredients in your fermenter and let it go,” Turdo said. “Because there’s no one right way to do it, there’s no one right flavor. And I find that very freeing.”

This spring, he’ll bottle almost 25 gallons. His advice: Don’t hesitate.

“People kept telling me, ‘You have to find the right juice, and you have to prepare it in a certain way.’ And I believed them for too long,” Turdo admitted. “Just jump in and try it. Even my failures have been somewhat drinkable.”

Basic Cider Making

Supplies

1 gallon of apple juice (see note)

1 packet Lalvin EC-1118 yeast

Rubber stopper, drilled

Airlock

Auto-siphon

Cleaner

Sanitizer

Another 1-gallon glass jug

Growlers or bottles (with caps and capper) for packaging

Instructions

Note: We recommend Whole Food’s 365 Organic Gravenstein Apple Juice since it conveniently comes in a glass jug that can be reused!

Pour off ¼ to 1/3 from the jug and save it to drink later. This makes room for active fermentation. Open yeast packet and add contents to the remaining juice. Fit clean and sanitized stopper into the jug’s opening and then fit airlock (filled with water) into the drilled hole of the stopper. Let sit undisturbed until the foaming dies down. Using an auto-siphon, move the finished cider off the lees (sediment) on the bottom into another clean and sanitized vessel. This process is known as racking. This finished cider can be left to clear and racked again if desired. Once your cider has settled for a few days, you can rack into a growler to be consumed within a few days or into bottles for conditioning.

A more advanced technique includes using a hydrometer to measure the original gravity (sugar content), determining the potential alcohol by volume. The hydrometer is used to take other specific gravity measurements throughout the fermentation process to determine when it’s complete.

Recommended reading: “Cider, Hard & Sweet: History, Traditions, and Making Your Own,” “Cider: Making, Using & Enjoying Sweet & Hard Cider” and “The New Cider Maker’s Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide for Craft Producers”

INSTRUCTIONS COURTESY OF BRIAN DRESSLER OF DRESSLER ESTATE