Friday, October 24, 2008

Indiana Apple Cider or Scarecrow Graf

There's this series of Stephen King books I love called The Dark Tower. I really like the character of Roland in these books. He's a gunslinger. The story crosses different time periods, and may seem goofy if you're not familiar to King's works, because in this seven-book series, he pulls out characters from other books. Unfortunately, he even writes himself into the books, which is sort of a downfall. It's sort of a The Good, the Bad and the Ugly meets Lord of the Rings.

But I didn't come here to write a book review. In The Dark Tower, they drink something called graf, which is supposed to be some kind of apple beer. Leinenkugels made what might be considered an apple beer, called Apple Spice. In my humble opinion, it sucked! Fortunately, for all of us, they retired it, and apparently make a brown ale in its place now, which appears to be getting rave reviews.

A few weeks back, I was fortunate enough to talk to one of our friends' dad, who owns property with quite a few apple trees. He told me he was making cider the next week, and I asked if I could fill a 5-gallon carboy up with some. He said sure. I went the next week and worked for two hours moving apples around and throwing them into the cider press. Then I found this recipe, which I call Scarecrow Graf.

Scarecrow Graf
5 gallons fresh, unpasteurized apple cider
3 lbs Indiana honey (from our friend, Ken, who raises bees)
3 lbs Dark Brown Sugar (from the ultra-mega corporate Domino Sugar company)
2 packs of Five Star dry champagne yeast
Several cinnamon sticks for secondary fermenter
Optional handful of raisins for secondary fermenter

You have to get fresh cider. That stuff from the grocery store apparently has some kind of pasteurization going on that will actually kill your yeast, so get your cider fresh from a farmer's market or the like.

I looked around the internet for recipes, and the first 4 ingredients were used in one recipe I found. I thought the cinammon sticks would add a nice touch. I'm still not sure about the raisins. Nothing out there really about sanitation, and nothing really about bringing the cider to a boil. Instead, I opted to bring 3 gallons of the cider up to a temperature of 100 degrees, stir in the honey and brown sugar, and then mix it back into the carboy with the remaining 2 gallons of cider. Follow the directions on the yeast pack, making sure your mixture of cider is around 70 degrees, and then pitch the yeast. I think we did the whole "brew" in about 30 minutes. The original gravity on the thing was a 1.100.

When I move the cider to the secondary, I will add probably 3 cinammon sticks for a hint of cinnamon. After a week in the secondary, we will bottle, and hopefully this stuff will be ready by Christmas.


Marc V. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marc V. said...

So how did the cider turn out?

You have probably heard about another Graf by now, "Brandon O's Graf"... named for the same drink in the same series.

I tried that, but didn't get a good result (of course, I didn't follow the recipe at all -- just elements of it). Lots of the folks who did BO's Graf (ok, just plain Graf from here) really liked it. One of its features is supposed to be that it's drinkable w/in a couple of weeks after final fermentation as opposed to regular cider which is a 6-month kind of thing. I can't stand waiting.

Lots of folks that I shared it with liked it, especially as it aged a couple more weeks. As far as I'm concerned, it definitely sucked less than any of my other batches. I wish I had saved back some more, it would be up coming up on the 6 month mark about now.

Regarding cider in general,
1) Don't boil cider -- it will result in setting the pectins and a hazy cider that never clears as the yeast drops out.
2) Using fresh un-pasteurized juice and then adding yeast may be a lost effort. The natural yeast gets a head start. Most use sulfites (i.e, Campden tablets) to quash the natural yeast action and then later hit it w/ the selected yeast. UV pasteurizing or flash pasteurizing are good, but usually done by the juicer.
3) Regular plain cider will usually take 6 months at a minimum before people consider it "drinkable". Did I mention, I can't stand the wait.

I did a small cider class for some of the folks at work. We just used store apple juice (hey, it was a first time for everyone). One of the guys brought a 3-month-old bottle of his to a meeting and we were all surprised at how tasty it was. Aside from over-carbonation, it was great. I hope everybody else's works out that good when we have our group tasting in a month.

Jez said...

Yeah, it was good after about a year. Lightly carbonated, about 2.5 volumes. Again, I gave most of it away. It was like an apple wine.

art fan said...

If you are fond of cider and make a lot of it, i recommand you to buy a bottle washer in order to provide clean cider/beer to your guests.

Cheers !


Marc V. said...

I've got a bottle washer... she does a great job. I've been married to her for 13 years. Woohoo!

But that's probably not what you meant.

Cheers, also!

Marc, also.

Fred-√Člie Rocher said...

What is the purpose of a bottle washer ?

Marc V. said...

In my case, THE bottle washer has many purposes, but she also helps me out when I brew cider... sometimes she'll wash the bottles, sometimes she holds my hose when we are racking.

She doesn't like cider, herself, but she likes me, so she helps out.

Marc V. said...

But seriously, when you re-use your bottles, there can be residue in the bottom. The bottle washer is a pressure-fitting that lets you squirt higher-pressured rinse water into your inverted bottles. The pressure helps remove any caked residue, while being inverted helps ensure that the wastes get drained out.