The WasteNot project continues to evolve our approach to feeding ourselves, and the last couple of weeks have had some interesting new developments. The most obvious of those has been a big batch of home-brewed apple cider. Let me tell you all about it!
My friend Jordan called me up asking what I was up to that afternoon, and if I was interested in harvesting a neighbour’s apple tree with him. Which of course I was. One interesting side effect of this project has been an open-ness to spontaneity that I didn’t have before. This kind of zero-waste food comes in what I like to call “inconvenient abundance”. In order to take advantage of it you need to be willing to drop what you’re doing and jump on the opportunity. Plus… It’s fun!
So the two of us put in a couple of hours with bags and a ladder and hauled away about as many apples as the two of us could carry (maybe 150 lbs?). After a summer of community apple abundance our freezer is already *full* of apple sauce and frozen apple slices, so I decided that with this batch I wanted to attempt a new (or rather, very old) preservation method. I wanted to juice the apples and ferment them just enough that they would keep over the winter without being refrigerated. I’m relatively convinced that the collapse of civilization is imminent, so the idea of obtaining and preserving food in a low-tech, DIY manner has becoming more and more central to my existence of late (more on that later?).
Once I got them home, I spent about a week slowly plugging away at getting the apples processed. Jordan and I chopped them and froze them (to break the cell walls), and after they thawed we created a makeshift apple press out of a couple of buckets and a ratchet strap. The resulting juice was a glorious deep red, and already a little bit fizzy from the fermentation that had begun to take place. The mostly dry pulp went into my newly built second compost bin.
Here’s a picture of the juice in it’s bucket after a few more days of fermentation. The formation on top was a mixture of the wild yeast doing the actual fermenting and the foam springing from the resulting bubbles of carbon dioxide.
My next move was to skim that gunk off of there and transfer the juice into a bunch of growlers that I had kicking around. I picked up some airlocks from Harvest Brewing Company who were super friendly and helpful with all of the questions I had.
The airlock prevents oxygen from getting at the juice, which keeps the bad bacteria from proliferating and allows the yeast to eat all of the sugar and make alcohol. Once this process is finished I’ll likely need to syphon the fluid off of the remaining fruit sediment, but that won’t be for a while yet.
Now these growlers are sitting on top of our fridge. I’m keeping an eye on them to see when the airlocks stop bubbling so I can put a lid on them and get them into our cold room. It could take a few weeks, it could take a few months. The process is unpredictable because I’m relying on the wild yeast instead of industrial champagne yeast, but I’m pretty all right with that. Life if unpredictable and I figure it’s probably best to be able to roll with the punches, so to speak. Ultimately, if the end of the world as we know it is indeed at hand, who knows if industrial champagne yeast will be available?
Here’s me sharing a few glasses of the pre-growler, very-mild, mostly juice-like cider with some friends. Group consensus was favourable all around. I’m really looking forward to trying out the finished product 🙂