The Äppelwoi experiment, part III
Last week, my daughter arrived home from a walk, sitting in her stroller and clutching a perfect little tennis ball of an apple, tiger-striped green and red, a secret prize from an otherwise ordinary amble around the neighborhood. Naturally, I wanted to take it from her. Des, however, promised to lead me to the tree that actually made it its job to present such treats to whomever could reach them. After returning to the scene of the climb, we managed to gather a small bushel, most of which ended up getting starring roles in our tasting afternoon. It was clearly apparent, though, that apple season was fast upon us, and with that, the need to whip up that experimental batch of Äppelwoi.
Just in time, just as the time to strike was upon us, a final ambassador of inspiration arrived on our doorstep: the authentic item, delivered in the world's most elegant beverage container, the 40-ouncer.
This is what it sounds like when Frankfurter doves cry. Not delicious. The reassuring image of a pastoral landscape framing a traditional bembl was nothing but a lie. Only steps removed from vinegar (or worse), this horrific reminder as to the benefits of pasteurization and the hardships of international travel still thankfully bore traces of the cider that we were aiming towards: a very dry, slightly wild, sour, lightly carbonated, vinous and refreshing take on what must be one of the simplest, most foolproof alcoholic beverages in Nature's cookbook. After assuring ourselves that there's no way we could make anything worse, we appropriately, given the packaging, poured the rest out for our homies.
Fast forward one week, and to the scene of the county farmer's market in all it's harvest height glory. All manner of late summer and early fall produce clogging the narrow lanes between the vendors, a twisted, psychedelic color maze, tomatoes and peppers lined up in identical rows but flashing against each other in starkly contrasting hues like run of Warhol prints. And in the midst of it all? Apples. Gravensteins, to be precise, along with some other mysterious early girls like the pink wonders you see above. In keeping with the information I was able to glean from translated web pages regarding Äppelwoi production, we purchased our typical amount of fresh pressed juice, but also appended our must with a few pounds of apples we pulverized ourselves and added unwashed, skins, seeds, stems and all. All it took was a little honey-based starter of Montrachet yeast, and we were off to the races.
Lest the irony of this image, taken from Hale's orchard's Gravenstein cider jugs, be lost on anyone, understand that the origins of the bountiful array of apple trees that crisscross this country of ours stem from a single purpose. And it was not, as they say, to insure against visits to the local medical practitioner (that came much later, during Prohibition). It was, as the label suggests, because when crushed and left to their own devices, apples do ferment on the wild yeasts resident on their skins, creating a magical, homey elixir that most definitely took the edge off of frontier living. Needless to say, we disregarded the warning. Oops! Let's see what happens, shall we?
And for those of you keeping score at home, the original gravity of the cider was 1.070, which is higher than the "traditional" guidelines set forth in BJCP, but right on track for a cyser or mead...