Wanted to write up what I did for some cider I made for a friend's wedding last Spring. I had no idea what I was doing and I'm not sure I could replicate it. It was the best cider I've ever had, and it surprised the heck out of the wedding guests.
End of March 2011 I pitched a packet of Danstar Nottingham onto
4 Gallons Kirkland (Costco) pasteurized Apple Juice
4 lbs organic cane sugar + (water +
Trader Joe's Macintosh apple juice to make 1 Gallon)
Original Gravity was 1,080
Fermentation lasted 4 weeks in the low to mid 60s, Final Gravity was 1,006.
I cold crashed it and racked it to secondary. 4 days later, there was no sign of any additional fermentation, FG didn't budge. I added 3.5 lbs of dried, sweetened Montmorency (tart AKA pie) cherries to the secondary container, screwed the lid back down, checked the airlock, and left town for a month.
After 1 month in secondary, the cherries were completely stripped of color & flavor and were giant, squishy, blond, waterlogged cherry-raisins. I sanitized a mesh colander and scooped out the fruit. The cider had the aroma of the cherries and a medium crimson-amber hue.
I added 1/2 gallon of fresh apple juice and poured the whole thing into a primary fermenter bucket that still had the yeast from a batch of cider that had just finished fermentation (hoping to restart fermentation), screwed on an airtight lid, and drove the thing up to the ranch where the wedding was to be held. Swapped to an airlock lid on arrival and let the bucket sit for 3 days in a dark spot where it never got warmer than about 63°. That was enough time to resaturate with CO2, but not enough time to eat all the sugar from the juice I'd added.
Accidentally left my hydrometer at home, so I have no idea what the final, final gravity was. I'm guessing it was in the 1,010–1,015 range, a little sweeter than other batches I've made.
The day of the reception it was pouring rain and the guests were soaking wet, and freezing. And they still lined up and drank 5 gallons of cold, half-carbonated cherry cider.
I would totally make this again if I thought I could get the same result.