First off, I would say this is more of a process than a recipe. And as such--and since this was my first try at cider--I was hesitant to post this recipe, but two things changed my mind:
1) I wanted to prove, to those who disagreed, that you could make a quality young cider by fermenting on fruit. And...
2) It's really freaking good.
I was able to harvest about 40 lbs of pears and 100 lbs of crab apples from wild trees in my area, and after canning my heart out and making 5 gallons of crab apple wine, I was still left with several pounds of each. Necessity being the mother of invention, I decided to make cider.
The crab apples are absolutely crucial for this recipe. They round out the acidity and flavor of the final product. The pears add complexity to the cider and the honey adds more layers of flavor and a smoothness to the final product.
*12.5 lbs pears
*8.5 lbs crab apples
*1 gallon bottled apple cider
*2 lbs invert sugar
*1 lb, 6 oz good quality honey
1) Place the crab apples in freezer bags and freeze them overnight. Let them thaw and smush them best you can, making sure not to cut or break any seeds.
2) Core and either finely chop or puree the pears.
3) Line a 6 gallon bucket with a paint strainer bag. Add the pears and crab apples. Add the potassium metabisulfite, pectic enzyme, and enough water to cover. Cover with a clean tea towel and let sit 24 hours.
4) Add the invert sugar and honey. Aerate well and pitch the yeast. Cover with the tea towel and let ferment 5-7 days, gently stirring every 12 hours or so.
5) Remove the strainer bag and let as much liquid drain off as possible. Add the apple juice and however much water necessary to get to 5.5 gallons (this will restart fermentation and get rid of headspace). Cover with a sanitized lid and airlock.
**At this point, you need to monitor the gravity regularly so you can halt fermentation when you want to. I like mine on the semi-sweet side, so I let it go to 1.010, which took 4 days from the date I added the apple juice. Your results may vary**
6) When desired gravity is reached, either keg or bottle. I bottle conditioned mine and pasteurized it later. After 5 days in the bottle I got the desired carbonation level that I wanted, which is roughly that of an English draught cider.
Some final notes on the recipe:
*I would probably add more crab apples next time to up the acidity a bit. I'm thinking a 1:2 ratio of crab apples
ears/apple juice would be about perfect.
*I originally planned this as a 5 gallon recipe, but accidentally went a bit over. If you like your ciders stronger, you can adjust the amount of sugar added.
*If you don't know how to invert sugar, this
is a decent how-to.
A picture is forthcoming. Cheers!