Applejack exemplifies fundamental fermentation techniques at their purest. Not much has changed in applejack production since the American colonial period. Production starts with unpasteurized, preservative-free apple cider and ends with a timidly sweet, bold drink that finishes crisp and has just enough savory tannins for balance. Applejack gets its bump in alcohol content -- which ranges from 20 to 33 percent -- from freeze concentration, a method that essentially separates water from wine at sub-zero temperatures.
Things You'll Need
2-gallon fermentation bucket and lid
Glass pint jar and lid
Long-handled metal spoon
1 gallon unpasteurized ecological apple cider
1 pound of white sugar
1 teaspoon of yeast nutrient
1/8 teaspoon of pectin nutrient
1/4 teaspoon of wine tannin
1/8 teaspoon of pectin enzyme
1/8 teaspoon of ascorbic acid
2 sodium metabisulfate tablets
5-gram package of EC-1118 saccharomyces bayanus yeast
1-gallon glass jug
Racking cane and tip
Siphon hose and clamp
1 tablespoon of bentonite powder
1-pint glass jar and lid
Manual wine stirrer
2-gallon freezer-safe food container
Stainless-steel mesh strainer
Sterilize a 2-gallon fermentation bucket and lid, air lock, measuring cup, glass pint jar and lid, and a long-handled metal spoon in a solution of 1 gallon of water mixed with 1 tablespoon of bleach. Air dry the bucket and utensils.
Pour 1 gallon of cider in the fermentation bucket. Add 1 pound of white sugar, 1 teaspoon of yeast nutrient, 1/8 teaspoon of pectin nutrient, 1/4 teaspoon of wine tannin, 1/8 teaspoon of pectin enzyme and 1/8 teaspoon of ascorbic acid.
Stir the cider and fermentation agents for several minutes using the sterilized spoon. Stir in 1 crushed sodium metabisulfate tablet, set the lid on the bucket, and leave it unsealed. Let the cider sit for 24 hours to sterilize.
Portion 1 cup of cider in the measuring cup and transfer it to the sterilized jar. Sprinkle 1 5-gram package of EC-1118 saccharomyces bayanus yeast over the cider in the jar and stir it using the sterilized spoon.
Seal the jar with the sterilized lid and shake it. Let the jar stand until it proofs, or until you see foam. This takes about 1 to 2 hours.
Using the sterilized spoon, stir the activated yeast into the fermentation bucket, seal the lid, and attach the fermentation lock. Let the cider ferment for 3 days. You'll see yeast activity in the fermentation lock. Sterilize a hydrometer in bleach water.
Measure the specific gravity of the cider on the third day using the hydrometer. It should measure between 1.000 to 1.050; if it measures less, let the cider ferment another day or two until it reaches the proper gravity.
After the hydrometer measures between 1.00 and 1.050, sterilize a funnel, a 1-gallon glass jug with an airlock, a racking cane and tip, a siphon hose, and clamp using bleach water.
Set the bucket of cider on a table or counter. The cider has to sit at least 1 1/2 to 2 feet above the jug. Place the jug on a chair and place the funnel in the neck. Take the lid off the bucket.
Connect one end of the siphon hose to the hook of the racking cane; slide the hose clamp about 6 inches above the other end of the hose. Hold the clamp-end of the hose under slow-running tap water to clear the air; when water runs out the racking cane close the hose clamp.
Connect the racking cane tip to the end of the cane and set it in the bottom of the fermentation bucket. Hold the other end of the hose by the clamp and guide the tip into the funnel; open the clamp.
Let the cider siphon down until you start to see sediment in the line; shut the clamp when you do. Attach and close the air lock on the glass jug and set in a dark place with a 70-degree-Fahrenheit or above temperature to ferment for 2 weeks.
Sterilize the hydrometer and check the wine after 2 weeks. It should measure around .990 or below. If it measures above, which it might, reattach the airlock and let it ferment another week.
In a sterilized jar, mix 1 tablespoon of bentonite powder with hot filtered water using a sterilized spoon. Stir the bentonite vigorously and break up as many clumps as possible. Seal the jar with the lid and let it sit for 24 hours.
Insert a manual wine stirrer into the jar and stir the wine for several minutes, alternate stirring direction. Shake the jar of bentonite vigorously and let it settle.
Pour the bentonite slurry into the wine and stir again for at least 5 to 10 minutes. Stir the wine periodically over the next 24 hours; it should clarify by the next day. Let the wine stand until it clarifies.
Stir 1 crushed sodium metabisulfate tablet into the wine, wrap the jug opening with 4 to 5 layers of cheesecloth and secure them with a rubber band. Let the wine sit for 24 hours to sterilize.
Place a sterilized funnel in a wide 2-gallon freezer-safe food container. Pour the apple wine into the second jug. The cheesecloth will catch most of the sediment if it gets through. Pour the wine slowly so you disturb the sediment as little as possible.
Place the food container in a chest freezer. Loosely cover the container with the lid but don't seal it. Freeze the wine for 24 hours.
Skim off the ice on top of the wine using a stainless-steel mesh strainer and discard the ice. Return the wine to the freezer.
Freeze the wine another 24 hours and skim again. Continue freezing and skimming until no ice forms. It can take up to 3 days for the wine to stop freezing (or even depending on the grade of freezer).
Place a funnel in a sterilized glass jug; place a conical sieve in the funnel. Have a helper hold the sieve and funnel in place while you pour the applejack into the jug.
Wrap a couple layers of cheesecloth around the jug opening and let it sit for 2 days to ensure all carbonation is evaporated. Seal the jug with a rubber stopper. Store and serve applejack at room temperature.
Chest freezers work best for freeze concentration. You can expect apple jack to reach about 20 percent Alcohol By Volume when concentrated at minus 10 degrees below zero Fahrenheit; freeze concentrating at 30 degrees below zero can produce 30 ABV. (reference 3) Use organic, freshly pressed apple cider for best results. You can get freshly pressed cider from farmers markets in the fall.