Last year, I decided to try something different. I wanted a more festive cider. I was thinking it would be appropriate for Thanksgiving, but ultimately what I came up with felt more Christmas-y. I made a mulled hard cider.
To start, I basically copied what I had done the year before with Yellow Cat Dry Cider, with a couple changes. The idea was to make a basic hard cider that I could then build on. As I mentioned in the post about the dry cider, it was okay but I found it a little boring. The changes I made were that I used ale yeast instead of wine yeast and that I added a bit of extra sugar. The yeast change was simply because I had an extra packet of American ale yeast on hand and I figured it wouldn’t make a whole lot of difference. It didn’t. The sugar was unplanned.
When I checked the gravity of the fresh cider, I found that it was a bit lower than the previous year’s batch. I have always gone on the idea that 7% ABV was a good place to start if you’re planning to age an alcoholic beverage. With the cider’s natural gravity, it would have been well below that, so I decided to bump it up with sugar.
I fermented five gallons of cider to dryness. When it was done, I took another half gallon of fresh cider and mulled it on the stove top with this spice. I used enough of the spice for one gallon, according to the instructions. Then I added it to a carboy and racked the five gallons of fermented cider on top of it. I gave it about a week for the yeast to ferment out the little bit of extra sugar from the fresh cider and for the spices to mix and settle. Then I planned to bottle it.
When I took a sample, I was not happy with it. The mulling spice was very citrusy with subtle spiciness. I wanted more cinnamon. I decided to add two cinnamon sticks and a vanilla bean (not sure what prompted that, but it worked out) and give it another week.
After that week had passed, I gave it a try and was very pleased. It had the citrus and the spice and the vanilla melded with the apple flavor very well. It was very dry, of course, and that may have been okay, but for this project, I thought a sweet cider was much more appropriate. I didn’t want bottle bombs and I didn’t want to pasteurize, but I wanted a bottle conditioned sweet cider.
If you’re new to this blog, you may think that is impossible. If you were around for soda week, you may know where this is going. I back sweetened with Splenda. I’m sure there are people who scoff at this idea, but it worked perfectly. I got a lot surprised reactions for this cider and they were all positive. It is very unique and it’s quite delicious. It feels like Christmas, but it is also great all Winter long.
Now, the only issue. I’m not sure how much Splenda I added. I started with a measured amount, but didn’t think that that was enough, so I began adding a bit more and taking samples. Several times. I ended up with something that I was very pleased with, but my notes are severely lacking. I definitely want to make this again and I hope to measure my back sweetening better this time.
I have about ten bottles of this left and I haven’t had one since the end of last Winter. I’m looking forward to doing tasting notes to see how it has held up. This is the only thing I’m not sure about with the Splenda. I’ve used it in a bunch of sodas with great results, but they were all consumed relatively quickly. Will the Splenda hurt the cider after almost a year in the bottle? I guess we’ll find out soon. I definitely recommend experimenting with mulled hard cider. You can take my recipe or just he general idea, but give it a shot.