Farmhouse Apple Cider

25 Oct 2011

A few weeks ago, I blogged about one of my favorite autumn traditions in America: sipping apple cider and nibbling on cider doughnuts at the local apple orchard or pumpkin patch. Some of you may have already seen + heard me carrying on via Twitter or Instagram sharing our happy success with, “Rosie”, our charming new fruit press, and the first batches of pressed cider here at the farm this week. And, yes, we sipped cider with doughnuts by the turf fire immediately! Now all is good in the world.

Some excellent questions popped up during my initial exploration into cider making, a fellow blogger asked, “So, what is the difference between apple cider and apple juice anyway?” Of course, my farmer questioned how/if we could make batches of boozy cider with our apples and new press. {In case you were wondering, YES, WE CAN!}

The truth is, fresh cold-pressed apple juice is nearly the same as apple cider. It can be made any time of year when apples are available, but is most commonly pressed in the autumn when apples are plentiful. Cider and juice are both made in the same way, but the difference is that apple juice is pressed and strained through a thinner mesh than cider. Cider tends to be cloudier and darker in colour than juice and has a more tart and raw flavour than the juice. Also, the bottom line is, depending on the quality of apples, which vary from year to year, the taste, sweetness and consistency of apple juice and cider can vary widely.

Alcoholic cider or perry (pear-based cider), an institution in Ireland, UK and France, is made by fermenting the juice after pressing, either by a naturally occurring fermentation or by adding a yeast strain.  This type of cider is one of my favorite drinks here on the isle, something that was new to me when I first arrived in Ireland & which I took an affinity towards….rather quicky. Fermented alcohol cider, such as Bulmers or Strongbow have dry, complex flavours and are not sweet. Perfection. I have also just learned of a new craft cider in Ireland called Stonewell which we will be sampling soon.

Thankfully, this type of cider libation has also been making a comeback stateside. In doing my cider research, I discovered that during the 18th century, hard cider was actually the drink of the people, from farmers to fighting men, and deservedly so as President John Adams himself drank a tankard of cider every day. Children drank a less potent version, called ciderkin.

However, when the Germans arrived in America, beer fell more into favour and after the prohibition, cider was virtually nonexistent. Now, with wonderful artisanal ciderys cropping up across the country such as Bellwether and Tieton, the cider tradition is swiftly being reborn in America.

Whether a warm mug of autumn apple cider or a cold glass of dry {alcoholic} cider suits your fancy, I say long live apple cider!

I am thrilled to announce that we will be packing up “Rosie” and heading to Kilkenny at the weekend to press cider at Savour Kilkenny, a fabulous food festival in it’s fifth year running. Please come along and sample a taste of sweet cider with me in the Forgotten Skills tent on Parade Plaza from 11:30AM on Saturday. I’d love to see you there! There is an amazing schedule of events at the festival including food demos by Donal Skehan, Catherine Fulvio and Edward Hayden. The Great Irish Food Debate, a panel discussion about whether or not ‘Irish Cuisine’ exists will take place during the Food Camp on Friday, and reknowned American food writer/food historian and founder of Saveur magazine, Colman Andrews, will be weighing in. Not to be missed!  www.savourkilkenny.com

So, here’s how we made our apple cider:

Procure a mix of apple varieties. Apple juice tastes much better if sweet, tart and fragrant apples are mixed together. We used the two types of apples that we currently have in the small farm orchard: Bramley and Pippin varieties. Yields can vary widely, but as a general guide, 20 lb/10kg apples will yield a gallon/4 litres of juice.  Wash the apples by running cold water over them and removing any dirt or other contaminants. Remove any obviously rotted or discolored parts of the apple. Be cautious when using apples that have been picked up from the ground after falling from the tree as these will require extra cleaning to remove possible contaminants. Never use “ground apples” from an area where livestock graze.

Chop and mash the apples. For larger quantities, an apple chopper is the easiest method. For smaller quantities, you may use a food processor, meat grinder, or just cut the apples into very small cubes. I used our food processor. Do not worry about stems, seeds or peels–they can all be included in the mash. (I originally cored all the apples, a waste of time!) 

Insert a mesh bag into the fruit press. Our model came with a two bags. Bags with larger diameters are used for cider, while a smaller mesh will product a more juice-like product. Place a large pot under the spout of the fruit press to catch the juice as it is pressed.

Fill the fruit press with apple mash. Add 1 tbsp. lemon juice, if desired, to help reduce oxidation ofthe apple juice. Apples and apple juice, will react with oxygen and produce a brownish color. Lemon juice will lessen but will not eliminate this effect.

Tighten the fruit press to begin the flow of juice. Keep tightening the press until the flow of juice comes to a halt, which takes approximately 10 minutes. The pressed mash can be composted, discarded or fed to local wildlife or in our case, resident donkeys, Conor and Cormac.

Pour the apple juice into plastic or glass containers. Drink. If you plan to freeze the juice, fill the containers three-fourths full, to allow room for expansion.

If the apple juice has not been heated, it will keep in a refrigerator for one or two weeks before yeast naturally present in the juice starts the fermentation process.

APPLE CIDER DOUGHNUTS

Makes Approx 20 Doughnuts

1 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

¼ cup buttermilk

½ cup apple cider

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

4 cups all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon allspice

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup sweet apple finely chopped

Topping

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Mix 1 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a brown paper bag. Set aside.

To Make the Doughnuts

  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat eggs and sugar until thick and creamy
  • Add the melted butter
  • Combine the milk, cider, and vanilla. Set aside.
  • In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt
  • Alternately add the flour and milk-cider mixture to the eggs, beginning and ending with the flour. Combine thoroughly.
  • Fold in the apple
  • Turn out the dough onto a large piece of parchment paper.
  • Fold the paper to cover the dough and place in freezer for 30 minutes. Dough will be very sticky but will become workable after it firms up in the freezer.
  • Roll out firm dough on a lightly floured surface ½-inch thick.
  • Cut 2-1/2-inch circles with 1-inch center holes (or use a doughnut cutter). Dough will be soft, which makes light, tender doughnuts when fried.
  • Let cut doughnuts rest five minutes on a cookie sheet.
  • Heat 3 to 4-inches oil to 360 degrees in a large pot.
  • Fry three to four doughnuts at a time for about 1-1/2 minutes per side or until golden brown. (Be sure to maintain the temperature of the oil, lowering or raising stovetop heat accordingly).
  • Shake fried doughnuts in the cinnamon sugar mixture.
  • EAT IMMEDIATELY WHILE SIPPING WARM APPLE CIDER! (do not take snaps, if you want to see what they look like, here’s a great example)

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos by Imen McDonnell.

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Caveat: because I grew up in the Midwest of the USA and am accustomed to such Fargo-like isms such as “ya betcha” and “pret’near”, I feel I can write about this topic in an unbiased, non-judging manner. Oh, and even poke fun a little bit.

This post sets out to help you avoid any embarrassing moments of confusion or shock when confronted with some commonly used Irish slang words or expressions while you are living in or visiting Ireland. After nearly 5 years of living here, I’ve heard so many new terms and phrases that I would venture to say that clever Irish communication style is one the of the top things Ireland has on offer. It most certainly makes my day on a regular basis!

So, without further adieu, here is Part 1, A-J, the shortlisted glossary of my favourite Irish slang words and phrases derived from both farm country and city life alike:

Ask Me Arse: (v) (rhetorical) What do you take me for.  “You need a lift to Dublin to go shopping? Ask me arse! That’s tree (3) hours away!”

Bang On: (adj) Correct. Perfectly accurate. “Ohhhh, that Tiffany key necklace is bang on sweetie. May I please have one?”

Banjaxed: (adj) Broken. Severely damaged. “Me head is totally banjaxed after last night’s (drinking) session with the lads”

Babby (n) Baby. Small Child. Name of Imen’s forthcoming babywear line. “Me ma had her first babby when she was 12 and never looked back”

Bejeebus: (expr) By Jesus. “Bejeebus! The magpies are savage round here this year!”

Black Stuff. (n) Stout. “I’ll take a pint of the black stuff and a half-pint of Bulmer’s for the lady”

The Business. (n) Something cool. “Monart Spa is the business, don’t you think sweetie? We really must get away for a weekend soon”

Call. (v) to drop by someone’s home. (usually unexpectedly). “I think I’ll just call over to Imen’s this morning, I’m sure she’ll be well prepared for guests.” {yeah right}

Craic. (n) pronounced “crack”.  Fun. “There’s great craic to be found at the pub round the corner”  {and you most likely won’t get arrested for it}

Chancer (n) Untrustworthy person.  “That aul chancer, he’d better put it right”

Cow. (n) crabby lady. “She’s a right old cow, but sure, she always goes to mass on time so she’s grand”

Da. (n) Father. Irish for father.  “Me and me Da used to go sloe picking in the fields.”

Doss (on the) (n) Failing to show up for work/school during specified hours. “I swear I wasn’t on de doss, I really did have a brain transplant yesterday!’

Dub. (adj) Someone from Dublin. “Once a Dub, always a Dub”

Eejit. (n) Person of limited mental capacity. Complete moron. “That eejit is back on Fair City again”

Fair Play. (expr) Well done. “Fair play to all of ye who finally put grit down on the icy roads!”

Fanny. (n) Female genitals. {and I don’t mean your bum} “She had on no knickers and you could see her fanny, to think!!”

Feck. (v)(n) Politically correct term for f**k.  “Oh feck! I said f**k!”

Full Shilling. (not the) (adj) Mentally challenged. “All those loud Americans…definitely not of the full shilling”

Gas. (adj) Amusing. Funny. Hilarious. “That Des Bishop sure is gas”

Give out. (v) To yell. Scream. Reprimand.  “Me mum’s giving out to me again fer wearing too much mascara and me tacky white leather boots!”

Grand. (adj) Fine. Good. “Who me? Sure, I’m grand”

Happy Out. (adj). To be content. “Just leave me at Brown Thomas for the afternoon and I’ll be happy out”

Holy Show. (v) To make a big deal out of something. “Bejeebus! he really made a holy show of things!”

Hooley.(n) Raucous celebration involving drinking and singing. “There’s a hooley on tonite at Kelly’s!”

Howaya/Hiya/Heya. (greeting). Hi. Hello. “Heya, anything strange(new)with you?”

Jacks (n) Toilet. Restroom. “Did you see the state of de jacks in there?! They couldn’t be arsed to have em cleaned” note: the term toilet is used here more so than bathroom/restroom…”I need to go to the toilet” is a very common expression or “I’m going to the loo”.

Janey Mack! (expr) Expression of utter disbelief. Wow! “Janey Mack! That See by Chloe bag would be half the price in the USA!”

Jar (n). A pint of beer or stout. “Okay so, let’s dander down to the local for a jar or two”

So that’s part one, stay tuned for part two…

Thank you for all of your emails for last week’s drawing to win Donal Skehan’s, Good Mood Food. And the winner is: Cathy Stephens of Baton Rouge, LA. USA. Congratulations!

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

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