This is basically a shout-out to Keystone Homebrew Supply for going out of their way to put together a nice selection of different fresh ciders this year. I just picked up my 5 gallons of Honeycrisp cider yesterday. Today, I cooked up my sugar and got everything in the primary.
I put this out there because usually I have to search for orchards with decent cider that doesn't have preservatives, etc, mixed in. And then, when I find one, it's generally just the one type that's a blend.
Keystone Homebrew sourced at least 4 fresh ciders this season and I'm glad I got their email. I don't live nearby, but made the drive and the juice smelled and tasted excellent. It didn't have a lot of sediment either.
I am in no way affiliated with Keystone Homebrew, I just appreciate their effort on the cider. I'm sure they probably will have a small supply left over if you didn't place an order, but it will probably be gone fast.
For those that haven't brewed a cider before, here's my simple recipe that I've been using for years...
Semi-Sweet Hard Cider
5 gallons fresh cider (try to get without preservatives)
1 pound table sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
(cinnamon/nutmeg if you want)
****Note: If you don't feel comfortable cooking sugar, you could use use Belgian Candy Syrup as a substitute. Do not leave sugar on the heat unattended, and do not add cold water to sugar after it has been cooking otherwise you will produce a pan of hard rock candy, and possibly ruin the pan :) But this is how I cook my sugar for ciders and Belgian Beers.*****
--Place white sugar in copper bottomed 2 qt. pot. Put lemon juice in and turn on medium heat. Place another pan with water on another burner and bring to a boil while the sugar is cooking.
--Sugar will melt and slowly turn brown. Mix with a wooden spoon but try to not splash it up on the sides or it will crystalize into hard candy. When the sugar is medium brown, turn heat off and take pan off of burner, at this point the sugar is above 280 degrees F so watch out, it will burn badly.
--When water is boiling, stand back and add some of the boiling water to the sugar, this will produce a violent reaction so make sure you're standing back. Stir the hot water into the sugar. Basically stir and add water to thin out this syrup. There is no set amount of water to add, but add slowly and stir until you have all of the thickened sugar syrup dissolved.
--While still hot, stir in brown sugar to melt and at this time if you wish, add spices.
--After it has cooled a bit, dump into fermenter and mix in 4 1/2 gallons of cider (reserved 1/2 gallon in cold storage). Allow to ferment with yeast as a usual fermentation. After primary is finished, add to secondary and allow sediment to fall out for at least 3 weeks.
--When ready to keg, add the half gallon of reserved cider that hasn't been fermented to your keg and siphon your hard cider on top. This will mix and sweeten the cider back up.
Depending on the sugar content of your cider, this will yield a cider about 5-6% alcohol after the sweet cider is mixed back in. If you like your cider dry, just ferment all 5 gallons and don't worry about adding sweet cider on the back end.
A caution to those bottling, adding sweet cider on the back end would replace the need for priming sugar. Also bottling using the sugar content in sweet cider is a tough thing to call and I'd keep the bottles where it doesn't matter if a top pops.
I know that most cider recipes have a variety of additives and artificial chemicals, but I've never found the need for them as I've been using this same basic recipe for more than 10 years.