Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sidra Mas Fina

A couple of winters ago, while on a trip to Barcelona, Not Hemingway turned me on to Sidra at Sagardi, a small chain of Basque ciderhouses that feature exotic looking (and tasting) pintxo tapas.

I won't soon forget the experience, and I've been able to approximate at home many of the Spanish delicacies I've experienced on that trip -- but not the sidra. For longtime 8MM readers, you might recall that I somewhat crudely lamented the fact that a guy couldn't find a Spanish cider seemingly anywhere in North America.

Never content with admitting defeat, I set out to make my own. I've never attempted to make homemade beer -- I've always thought that there are plenty of wonderful breweries around making top-notch brews. But never once have I seen sidra on tap -- better known here as hard apple cider.

And sadly, there's very little information available about true Spanish Sidra (at least in English) on the web. So I scoured other websites, studying up on recipes. I found a few that looked promising, so I took the plunge. I visited a nearby homebrew shop (less than a mile from work -- who knew?!?) and picked up a fermentation starter kit for about 20 bucks.

One Saturday morning, the kids and I visited Lewisburg Cider Mill and picked up a gallon or two of freshly-smashed apple cider. The actual "brewing" part of the equation seemed straightforward enough -- sterilize your equipment thoroughly, dissolve a campden tablet and mix in with the cider, and add some proofed vintner's yeast (which was all included in my starter kit). It was fun doing this with the kids, and we both learned a lot about the science behind fermentation (critical knowledge for any grade-schooler).

Two weeks later, my first batch was finished. The result? Meh. It was very cloudy and quite yeasty, but not altogether horrible (although Mrs. Scampwalker would go nowhere near it).

Undeterred, I put another two gallons down prior to my trip to Montana. This time, I used a champagne yeast, and added about a half cup of dissolved sugar to the mix, hoping to get a clearer batch through higher alcohol content. I also kept it fermenting for three weeks.

Last night, we racked the new batch. What a difference! While still cloudy (I've been told pretty much any "real" cider is going to be that way), it was less so than the first batch. It was also much less yeasty, and had a slight but pleasing natural carbonation to it.

I'm drinking a half-gallon right away, and putting two other carboys into secondary fermentation to see what that does.  Hopefully, I can replicate the recipe again. It'll be a fun holiday treat to serve to guests -- whether they want it or not.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, that sounds great! Scott (and I, to some extent) started brewing beer around 2000. We got off the habit when living in Germany, but your post, those great pictures, and my own kids' elementary school science needs, may be enough to cause me to revisit the thing!