If there are two foods that epitomize Vermont for me, they are maple syrup and apples. In late winter, conversation frequently turns to “how’s the sugaring going?” (at least in my circles of friends and acquaintances!) and come spring, every rural roadside is white with the blossoms of apple trees. That’s why I think this small-batch maple cider recipe is the perfect artisanal beverage to capture the taste of our new home.
Amber Shehan, writer at Pixie’s Pocket, and her publishing team were kind enough to share the excerpt you’ll find below from her new book, Artisanal Small-Batch Brewing: Easy Homemade Wines, Beers, Meads, and Ciders.
Her book goes beyond traditional brewing to include unique and whimsical recipes such as Blueberry Muffin Mead, Elderberry and Rose Hip Wine, Flower Garden Cider, and Mugwort Beer. These recipes embody the bounty of gardens, orchards, forests, and meadows, capturing seasonal flavors in fermented form.
One thing I appreciate about this book is that it is specifically designed for one gallon batches. Small batches invite the use of small amounts of foraged goodness, and allow you to play with creative flavor combinations without the fear of “ruining” an entire 5 gallon batch.
If you’ve always wanted to try your hand at brewing, but have been afraid to invest in equipment and time, this is the perfect beginner’s book. If you’re already skilled at brewing, I think you’ll be as excited about these beautiful seasonal recipes as I am.
If you’d like to try to make your own maple syrup to use in the recipe below, here are a a few how-to’s to get you started:
Maple Syrup Cider
Reprinted with permission from Artisanal Small-Batch Brewing by Amber Shehan, Page Street Publishing Co. 2019. Photo credit: Jen CK Jacobs.
Maple syrup and apples are just perfect together. The tart, sharp apples and the silky, sweet maple blend in this brew to make a very classy dry cider. Pair this cider with crumbly white cheddar, maple-bacon flavored treats or smoked nuts.
1 gal (3.8 L) apple juice, divided
2 cups (480 ml) maple syrup
½ cup (100 g) packed brown sugar
1 cup (240 ml) strongly brewed black tea
½ packet (2.5 g) Lalvin 71B yeast
- Gather your ingredients and sanitize your supplies. For this recipe, you’ll need a 1- or 2-gallon (3.8- or 7.5-L) stockpot, a long spoon, a funnel, a strainer, a gallon (3.8-L) carboy, a raking cane and a bung and airlock.
- Warm 1/2 gallon (1.9 L) of the apple juice in the stockpot, but only to about 90°F (32°C). Don’t let it boil or you run the risk of creating a pectin haze from the apple juice. Add the maple syrup, brown sugar and tea and stir until it is all mixed well.
- Using the funnel and strainer, pour the warmed apple juice mixture into the carboy and top it off with as much of the remaining 1/2 gallon (1.9 L) of apple juice needed for the must to reach the neck of the jug. Pitch the yeast, cover the mouth of the jug and give it a few good shakes to aerate the must and wake up the yeast.
- Seal it with the bung and airlock. Label the jug with the brew name and date. After 2 weeks, rack it over to a new sanitized carboy to get it off of the lees and help it start to clear.
- Bottle (page 84) your cider after it has cleared and fermentation has stopped. Since this cider is brewed with wine yeast and has a higher potential alcohol, you shouldn’t try to carbonate it unless you plan on bottling in champagne bottles with wire clamps! Save the priming sugar for the ciders made with ale yeast.
Recipe Note: This still cider is neither mellow nor maple-flavored at bottling, but it changes quickly! At two weeks, the dry cider will mellow out and reveal the maple aroma and flavor that you hoped for. Wonderful when dry, Maple Syrup Cider is just as delicious with a bit of Basic Simple Syrup (page 143) or maple syrup added to the glass at serving.
- 1 gal (3.8 L) apple juice, divided
- 2 cups (480 ml) maple syrup
- ½ cup (100 g) packed brown sugar
- 1 cup (240 ml) strongly brewed black tea
- ½ packet (2.5 g) Lalvin 71B yeast