I didn’t think that it would happen this year. Usually every fall I grab some apple cider when its freshest and make my cider for the following year. This yearly event is a time when I produce a pretty big cider (between 9 and 12%), and it usually takes close to a year for it to reach maturity. With the crazy weather over the past year, Michigan’s apple crop was next to nothing. This meant for me that I would be skipping my yearly cider. Well as luck would have it, I found myself with some cider to play around with. Sadly, this is not the high quality stuff I normally pick up at Gull Meadow Farms, there cider is UV pasteurized so the nuanced flavors hold up much better. Instead I am using some general cider that is heat pasteurized.
Taking the condition of the cider into consideration I had an idea that would allow me to bring complexity into the final product without having to rely on the apples alone. So I have started work on a cysor. Cysor is a blend of mead and hard cider. The blending brings complexity while sharing the strengths of the individual components. For an added dimension, I am playing on some thoughts of Christmas and cold winter days. This means adding in some cinnamon, specifically I will be adding a couple cinnamon sticks to secondary.
When working with fresh juices I do not boil them (though I am not sure how the pasteurization will affect this batch). Pectin is an enzyme in apples that makes the liquid cloudy when it has been heated. Instead of boiling I sterilize the juice by adding crushed cambden tablets. This is a similar approach for stopping the fermentation to retain the sweetness of wines and ciders.
For this batch I did something I have never done before. Instead of my normal liquid yeast (WLP 715 Champagne yeast), I went with a dried yeast. Lalvin’s EC-1118 is their version of champagne yeast. The advantage of this approach, was not having to set up a starter before pitching. Instead I spent a few minutes rehydrating the yeast the same day as pitching into the must.
Champagne yeast is my usual choice for meads and ciders for a couple reasons. The first is that I like to make my meads and ciders on the higher end of the abv range (from 9 to 13%). These bigger alcohols need a yeast that can happily work in the bigger ranges. I also like a drier finish to my ciders and meads. The champagne yeast will devour the sugars quite nicely leaving me with a tasty dry beverage.