A friend of mine solicited my advice and equipment after she found a few gallons of delicious, unpreserved apple cider.
I haven't had time to read the whole forum, so hopefully I'm not repeating too much...
Here's what we did :
4 gallons of cider had been sitting around for a few weeks and despite pasturization, appeared to have begun spontaneously fermenting. We kept the 3 gallons that smelled, tasted and looked good and threw out another 3 gallons.
Since the stuff was obviously fermenting, and one had failed already, we did a 15 minute boil to sanitize it and then force cooled it with an immersion chiller to about 65 deg F and poured it (aerated) onto about a half gallon yeast cake of Nottingham Ale Yeast that had been resting for 2 days after an all grain squash ale. I also added a dry packet of Munton's Ale Yeast to be really sure.
It started bubbling the airlock after only a few hours, albeit slowly.
=== Summary So Far ===
3 gallons Buckland Farm market pasturized apple cider (VA, USA)
Nottingham ale yeast cake + packet of Munton's Ale
After about a week, it had quit bubbling, and since I hate sanitizing bottles, I decided to go grab another 3 gallons of cider and make it a 6 gallon batch to make bottling really worth it.
I ended up with the following after buying out every grocery store I tried :
1 gallon 365 Galverstein Apple Cider (Whole Foods)
.5 gallon Murphy's Apple Juice (really a cider, from Roanoke VA)
1.5 gallons pasturized cider from Carter's mountain orchard (VA)
Cider prices here are at least $6/gallon for some reason.
I boiled the above ciders with
2 lbs of honey
1 lb brown sugar
.5 lb white sugar
force cooled it to about 65 F and poured it on the first 3 gallons.
Much to my surprise, bubbles began to rapidly rise from the airlock within about 5 minutes and about 2 hours later it had blown the airlock off, so I installed a blowoff tube. It bubbled through the blowoff tube for about 5 days at between 55 F and 65 F (my attic room is cold!).
The whole batch has been in the fermenter for about 10 days now and it still bubbles occasionally. I kind of wonder if I've killed most of the yeast with alchohol. I plan to prime the bottles whenever I bottle it, so I'll report back about what happens. The batch smells great, so I have high hopes.
Apparently, honey and sugar aren't uncommon in use. Also, hard cider used to be an all-American fermented beverage. From what I've read it's incredibly important to properly blend apple varieties in the cider or else the taste isn't ideal, which is why I didn't mind blending together all the various ciders available to me.
I read somewhere that in the USA "apple juice" means the apples are filtered and/or otherwise processed beyond simple pressing. "Apple cider" means pressed but basically un-processed apple juice. "hard cider" means apple cider that's been fermented to less than 8% ABV. "apple wine" means apple cider that's been fermented to between 8% and 14% ABV. I also saw a site with a whole slew of defined categories of cider that are officially recognized "styles" for cider competitions.
Here's some readings/resources (thanks Google):
a guy with his own orchard! http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/andrew_lea/frameset.htm
yeast selection - http://mars.ark.com/~squeeze/yest-cdn.html
history - http://mason.gmu.edu/~drwillia/cider.html
suitable apples - http://mtvernon.wsu.edu/frt_hort/ciderapples.htm