Sunday, January 12, 2014

Zombie Killers! (Recipe: Cherry Apple Cyser)

Yesterday we had some business to attend to in Gilroy, and on the way back, Hubs announced that he was hungry so "Let's grab some lunch."  Morgan Hill is kinda/sorta 'on the way' so I squealed "TRAIL DUST!"  which is my absolute most-favorite BBQ Joint in the Greater Bay Area.  Their BBQ is the Real Deal (and you can smell 'em from a block away!).  Orgasmically delicious food!

Their menu is pretty limited, but their Beer Menu is incredible and we usually need at least 10-15 minutes to decide what we're gonna drink.  Well yesterday I tried something new: B. Nektar Zombie Killer Cherry Cyser.  It's kind of a cross between a hard-cider and a mead.  Pretty sweet and 100% delicious!

Zombie Killer!

My initial* Google Searches led me to believe that it couldn't be purchased around here, so I found it odd that Trail Dust served it.  But it was sooooo good, I decided I'd attempt to make it myself!

(*subsequent Googling revealed that it is carried at a handful of liquor stores in the area - Yay! Might have to seek it out - if only for comparison purposes)

So then I asked Google to tell me what the hell a Cyser was.  I figured it must be similar to mead (it is quite sweet, and lightly carbonated), and Google told me that yes, in fact, it *is* like a mead, in that it is basically a hard-cider made with honey (whereas mead is simply wine made from honey - Learn something new every day, right?!).  Google further told me that it was comparatively easy to make (Yay Google!).

Here is where Google sent me.  And here is another really, really good page.

I snooped through a couple-three additional sites and finally decided that the best way to tackle this was to simply DO IT.  Hubs has some beer-making equipment but, unfortunately, very little would be usable for my first attempt at brewing.  So I hit the local Brewery Supply in downtown SanJo.  Picked up a 3 gallon glass carboy, an airlock, and some Mead Yeast (and nutrient/booster stuff for the yeast). Then, a quick trip to the health-food store around the corner to procure local and/or organic ingredients.

Organic tart cherry concentrate
Raw, unfiltered local honey
Martinelli's apple juice
Shiny new carboy in the back

Now, before we go much further, let me start with the requisite disclaimer that I truly don't know what the hell I'm doing (and may well be doing it all WRONG!).  So if you decide you want to try this recipe, I make absolutely NO guarantees of success - k?!  Feel free to consult Google yourself or - better still - maybe read a book on the subject (I skipped that step!).  This is simply what *I* did.  I'm hoping I'll have results in approximately one-month and MAYBE I'll even post an update in a semi-timely fashion (UNLIKE my Limoncello Adventures!).

Okay?  Ohhh-KAY!  Here goes:

QT's Interpretation of a Cherry-Apple Cyser
Yield - almost 3 gallons, I bet'cha!

  • 2 gallons distilled water
  • 4 lbs local raw honey
  • 64 oz organic apple juice (no additives or preservatives)
  • 10 TBS organic tart cherry juice concentrate (bought it at the Health Food Store)
  • 1/2 tube of mead yeast (from the brewery supply) 
  • 2 tsp yeast nutrient (also from the brew-shop)
  • 1 tsp DAP (yep, brew shop)
First, take your yeast out of the fridge and let it reach room temperature.

Next, sterilize EVERYTHING that will come in contact with the brew.  Hubs had some sterilizer in his beer-brewing stuff (some kinda "no-rinse" variety that just needed to be mixed with warm water and swished around a bit) (I *did* end up rinsing it).  I used a 3-gallon glass carboy.

Then you'll want to mix the honey with the water.  I ended up doing this in batches, on the stove, in my enamelware pot (you'll want to use a non-reactive pot, I'm pretty-sure!).  I mixed appx 1/2 gallon of warm water with 2# of honey on low heat (just enough to make sure that the honey is well mixed), then pour into your carboy.  Do it again.  Try not to drip honey all over EVERY SQUARE INCH of your kitchen (Yeah, good luck with that!)

Then add your juices to the jug.  Notes on the juices: you can certainly tweak-around with the ratios and you may not be able to find "cherry concentrate" (honestly, I would have preferred Tart Cherry JUICE, but dealt with what I was able to find at the health food store).  I think the main thing here is making sure that the juices do not have any additives (i.e. citric acid/vitamin C or preservatives).  I suspect that additives/preservatives will impede fermentation (but, again, I have NO CLUE!)

Next, mix your yeast and the boosters/nutrients/yada-yadas according to package directions.  Unfortunately, my packages did NOT have directions, so I just stirred them into 2 cups of lukewarm water and stirred the hell out of it  Dump that into the carboy as well.

Now the FUN part - try to make sure everything is well-mixed.  I ended up putting a regular cap on the top of the jug and kinda leaned/twirled it around 'til the color looked pretty uniform.

Next, I took a small sample of the juice mixture, plopped it in a tube and floated our hydrometer in it to get an initial reading (Note: I should have done this BEFORE adding the yeast + yeast booster/nutrients) (this is just the first "Oops" of many!).

It's slightly above the 60 mark.  I think it might be 1.08 "specific gravity"

This is something I'll have to research further, but the general gist is that you subtract your "after" reading from your "before" reading, and that tells you how much alcohol is in the final product.

Anywaaaaay...  Last thing you do is seal the carboy and install the airlock (Note: Fill the airlock to the fill-line - I just poured in a little bit of distilled water).  As fermentation begins, pressure will build in the carboy.  The airlock is essentially a one-way valve that will allow the excess pressure to escape without allowing bacteria to enter.

Now, I just need to sit back and wait.  The airlock should start showing bubbles after a few hours and in a few weeks' time, I should have some Apple-Cherry Cyser to sample.  Can't wait!!!

Sorry for the crappy Droid pic - but here it is!

The Cyser is brewing on the bar and is *quite* visible.  This one shouldn't take 4 years like the Limoncello did!

Stay tuned - I'll post an update when it's done!

Updates: I think I may pop back to this post, from time to time, and add updates as they relate to "starting" the wine.  I'll probably end up posting a "Final" recipe after everything is done.

1/13/14:  I've added a link to a super-good Mead site with different recipes/variants.  Also, forgot to mention that you need to add some kinda liquid to your airlock (fixed!).  Speaking of airlocks, I am happy to report that - as of this morning (day after starting this mess) - I'm seeing some bubbles, so that means that fermentation has begun - Yay!

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