So you've finally got the apples for your upcoming cider making project. Maybe you've picked them yourself or maybe you bought them at a farmer's market. In any case, you're probably ready to get started! Before you start crushing those little guys up though, have you thought about 'sweating' them first?
Sweating apples is a simple process many old-timers and pros use to make top notch cider. It's super easy. All you'll need to do is gather your apples and leave them in a warm, dry place for one to two weeks before pressing them. You can lay them out on your lawn on a dark tarp or something similar. Alternately, if you have room in your garden shed, you can put them in crates and store them in there.
Sweating does a few important things:
- It softens up apples for the crushing and pressing, giving better juice yields.
- It gives the apples a chance to further ripen and produce additional sugars. More Sugars=better fermentation and a higher alcohol content in the finished product.
- It gives you a chance to relax and have a beer after picking all those damn apples!
In the old days, farmers and brewers alike often* used ALL the apples in the orchard to make cider. That includes the apples that fell off the tree and landed there in the grass. These apples, usually referred to as 'windfall' apples are generally omitted from the cider making process these days, due to concerns about bacteria. But if you think about it, collecting the fallen apples makes sense for cider, as they are pre-sweated!
In any case, back to that tarp on your lawn. Once the apples become slightly soft (not rotten! Just slightly soft...) they are ready for the crusher! Sort through and remove any particularly bad apples. Give the remainder a quick rinse with the garden hose and get to work!
*We know some of you are going to write in and tell us how Thomas Jefferson and the Yeoman Farmers of yesteryear only used the freshest apples, picked from the tree. But trust us. These people used EVERYTHING. Fallen apples often included. People didn't waste ANYTHING. We're not saying use windfall apples, but... A lot of people did and still do...