Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Making Wild Cider

There have been a lot of windfall apples this summer in Katoomba. A few big gusts when the apples are ripe is all it takes, and the community gardens has a whole heritage apple walk full of trees, so the faintest waft brings down a whole fruitbowl full. So over Christmas when the winds blew and the rain came, apples came along with it.

When suddenly faced with kilos and kilos of not entirely perfect apples there’s really only one thing left to do. MAKE CIDER

I rope in a couple of friends, and being 21st century pioneers, we follow instructions from the interwebs. We find many experts in the world of ferment online, and within that vast collective, some who seem passionate as well as thorough in their reporting of the process to earn them the title in our conversation as “proper cider geeks”. And so it is, that we (that’s me and my cider drinking chums) take the ‘one in seven chance’ that all the work we put into juicing may produce something which we can’t actually drink by following their instructions.

Why do this? Well there are yeasts out there in the wild in the air and which live on the apples themselves, its these guys we’d like to employ here. Most cider you buy in the shops is made by first zapping the local yeasts on the fruit and then introducing predictable cider producing yeast. We could do that but then we’d have non local yeast and not very complex flavours, and it would definitely work (where's the fun in that?). We’re putting our windfalls in the hands of the locals so if good yeasts make it out on top in this ecosystem, then we’ll have a truly local cider with interesting, complex flavours as a result. We may even feel confident enough to do it again. We have minimised the risk of introducing other bacterium by sterilising our equipment first, and hope that our diverse apple community brings with it some strong and healthy yeasts to produce a human friendly ferment.

The normal way to make cider is to crush the apples and then press them. However, unable to find a cider press locally at short notice (if you have one there are apples galore still to process, so please get in touch) a friend kindly offers the use not one but two juicers.


It’s not the same as crushing and pressing, but it is what’s on offer, so in the grand spirit of necessity being the mother of cider invention, off we go. We arrive at the house of juicers with two large and very strong reusable shopping bags full of apples. Two masticating juicers (these have slow rotating blades which emulate a chewing action to liberate maximum juice), chopping boards and knives are laid out at the ready, and our task is all the swifter for it. 


Much chopping and juicing ensues. We stop to allow both juicers to cool down a couple of times from our mammoth effort, and within 2 hours (tea break not included) we’ve cut off the very bad bits, and chopped and juiced 33 kilos of windfalls. Our haul produces around 15 litres of juice which we pour into a fermenter pail for a first fermentation. 

About 5cm of solid foam forms on top which we scoop off. Because we make beer at home we also have a hydrometer, we take a reading and it comes in around 1.044, which is a little lower than the recommended density, so if it works this cider probably will be relatively sweet.  We test the juice at this stage, which is sharp, acidic and very very appley.

yes, it's quite hard to get a reading

Now we just have to wait.  Primary fermentation takes 1-2 weeks. I’ll post and update and let you know how it goes. And if you make cider from apples let us know how you make yours, do you crush and press, or juice? 

There are plenty of apples to ripen still, come down to the community gardens on a Friday morning at 10am if you'd like to arrange to take some apples and try a cider making experiment yourself :-)


  1. People are so into apple cider these days - I bet everyone loves it even if it is a bit on the sweet side ;)

  2. this one was not that sweet first go around, so we got some more (sweeter) apples ... awaiting result. Worst that happens is we get very nice apple cider vinegar :-)



We can harvest a wide range of fruits and nuts locally each season.

Local fruit and/or nut gardeners are invited to make additions or suggest modifications to the following work-in-progress compiled by Lizzie Connor.


Across the mountains: loquat, mulberry, rhubarb, strawberry and (in late spring) raspberry

Best in the lower mountains: avocado, jaboticaba, lemonade


Across the mountains: apricot, blueberry, boysenberry, cherry, currant (red, black, white), gooseberry, kumquat, loganberry, loquat, mulberry,nectarine, peach, plum, raspberry, rhubarb, strawberry and (in late summer) almond, apple, fig, hazelnut, passionfruit, pear (incl. nashi), pomegranate, youngberry

Best in lower mountains:lemon (Eureka), lemonade, lime, mandarin, orange, persimmon (non-astringent) and (in late summer) avocado, babaco, macadamia, rockmelon, wampee, watermelon

Best in upper mountains: jostaberry, lemon (Meyer), persimmon (astringent)


Across the mountains: almond, apple, chestnut, feijoa, fig, grape, hazel, kiwi fruit, kumquat, medlar, olive, passionfruit, pear (incl. nashi), plum, quince, raspberry (some), rhubarb, strawberry, strawberry guava, walnut

Best in lower mountains: avocado, babaco, cherimoya, grapefruit, lemon (Eureka), macademia, monstera deliciosa, orange, pine nut, pistachio, rockmelon, tamarillo, walnut, watermelon, white sapote

Best in upper mountains: lemon (Meyer), mandarin (Satsuma)


Across the mountains: apple, hazelnut, kiwi fruit, kumquat, pear (incl. nashi)

Best in lower mountains: grapefruit, lemon (Eureka), orange, tangelo

Best in upper mountains: avocado (Bacon), lemon (Meyer)