Historical Cider

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Sep 2, 2014
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This recipe is not so much a recipe as a historical process the average poor farmer in Europe would have taken to 'preserve' his apple crop.
The apples used would not have been store bought dessert apples unless he was wealthy, instead they would have been tart large cooking and cider apples designed for high yield and good storage. You can still find trees of this description today all over the world and even in the states or Australia the European settlers would certainly have kept the tradition. Even the ones which have wild-seeded often have unique and interesting flavors. Secondly the bittering of Cider would have been essential for colder climates as the tannins help to preserve the brew over the long winter. We are, of course, talking about an age where fermentation was witchcraft and sterilization didn't exist. Your average farmer might often have lost several batches to 'blight' which should be re-used as vinegar.

Ingredients: Apples
Optional: yeast, wild fruit, sloes, Juniper.
Step one if you want to get into the boots of our ancestors is to find THE most local apple trees where you might get 5 gallons (23l) of juice. Then take a bit out of one of the apples and decide if it's a bad tree or not. Too sour and tart and the apples are not likely to be ready (but take a few pounds of apples anyway, I'll tell you why later). Too woody, floury or papery and the tree might have gone bad or you have found a wild-seeded tree that produces bad apples. In most cases though a good tree has been planted by someone wanting the apples so they are usually ok.

Next ingredient, more apples, I'm not joking. Once you have found your bushel of plump apples you need to find a couple pounds (1kg) or either crab apples or un-ripe apples. You could technically use any un-ripe fleshy fruit like pears, rowan berries or plums but apples would have been the most commonly used in the olden days. This unusual ingredient takes the place of today's modern citrus juice. In medieval times in Britain they called it 'verjuice', the juice of any unripe or sour fruit. It would have been common practice in any medieval kitchen to keep a bottle around for cooking and brewing.

There are many ways to press or juice all of these apples and I'm sure there are threads on it online so I will skip the pressing matter for now and assume you have relinquished the juice from the fruit. The first 4 glasses of juice you press, however, place them somewhere warm and clean and stop pressing for about a week. The apples should be fine for a week if you store them cold and dry.

Now in medieval times the most likely things would be to press it all then leave it in a barrel and wait until it smells like alcohol but as I previously mentioned, we are more civilized now. Take the glasses/bottles of juice and you should smell that they have magically began to ferment and smell a bit funky. Smell/taste all of them and pick which one you like the best and save it in the fridge. Now you may press the rest of your apples. Once you have gotten the juice place it in your fermenter and pitch your glass of fermenting cider and cover with an airlock.

Wild yeast is a higher risk than conventional store-bought yeast and as such many people would avoid this recipe but WAIT! I assure you that you will get a similar but not 100% authentic result with regular ale yeast of any type. Pale ale yeast seems to ferment nicely and wine yeast will also work fine. Infact the more wealthy households in medieval times would have had yeast to spare for baking bread and would no doubt have pitched it into cider too.

The great thing about this process is that you can experiment! Try different apples, summer apples maybe, leave out the crab apples and verjuice for a sweeter cider. Get into the mind of the old time brewers and go rambling in the local area to find suitable ingredients. Rosehips, Sloes, Juniper berries, Lingon and blue berries, wild fruits and Rowan berries. Maybe they even threw in a few crushed acorns to add tannin to a sweet cider. The recipes are endless!


Apr 27, 2014
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Do you have any primary documentation of the methodology? Most of what I can find consists of payroll records which show workers being partly paid with cider, tax rolls with orchard outputs, and images and examples of surviving presses. I haven't found any decent period sources for documentation about methodology.


Active Member
Jun 7, 2018
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This is great!

Will you be able to detail the timing/process for the primary/secondary/bottle aging for such an “Old-World”, “apple juice only“ cider? Any reference works that could help?