My friend is getting married in October and he wants me to make some cider for the wedding, and I need your help! We are trying to make two different ciders- one champagne style (for the toast, etc) in bottles, and then another kegged cider for the reception. I'm looking for recipes and advice regarding both; I know the forums are full of info (and I'm reading) but I also know I have very little time to do the conditioning necessary for the champagne style, so I'm looking for help/to start fermenting soon.
For the champagne style, the main thing we're looking for is clarity and fine carbonation. I kinda want to show off with this one and maybe actually use the champagne method. I'm thinking we'll make 3 gallons:
Purchase clear apple cider with no preservatives. Set aside a container overnight and make a starter by pitching a champagne yeast into maybe 8 oz of cider.
Start primary with 3 gallons of cider and starter. Ferment for ~1 week/until fermentation slows. Rack, ferment. If there's still a lot of stuff at the bottom of the carboy, rack again. Wait till fermentation slows to a crawl, then bottle in champagne bottles, cap.
Store upside down for ~1 month. Attempt methode champenoise- freeze neck, uncap and let yeast cake pop out. Replace lost liquid with some cider. Cork and let finish until wedding.
A couple questions on that one-
1. Should I bother finding a clear apple cider? I have some very tasty cloudy stuff, but I'm not sure if fermentation will remove that haze. I find the clear stuff less tasty/complex and am worried it won't taste like much.
2. How will I achieve high alcohol and fine / high carbonation? Maybe I should add honey to the cider I add at the very end (I've heard honey can clarify)?
3. Can a regular wine corker handle champagne corks (I'm borrowing one, hopefully)?
This stuff is for the reception and doesn't really need to be anything but tasty and carbonated. Mildly sweet would be good, but I always have difficulty with that part. 5 gallons
Buy organic sweet and tart AJ. Make a starter the night before with a couple oz juice and an ale yeast. Pitch the starter into 5.5 gallons AJ. Wait until fermentation slows, move into secondary. Rack again if necessary. Add some more AJ (maybe .5 gal? maybe just keeping adding to taste?) and sorbate. Keg and pressurize.
I'd like to avoid sorbate if possible but I don't know how I could stop fermentation of my newly added AJ as I can't really pasteurize an entire carboy on the stovetop.
Thanks for any help!