Today I mixed up a batch of this new recipe I have come up with. I initially had the idea when I tried a hard cider with vanilla and cinnamon at the last Lancaster Brewers club meeting. I got a caramel character from it, which I attributed to the vanilla. Despite being pretty dry, it still had a candy-like taste.
I decided to up the the caramel factor by using actual caramel in the recipe. I am, of course, making my own caramel as opposed to using store bought. Most caramel has dairy and other ingredients you probably don’t want in your cider. You can make a your own, brewing friendly, caramel with two simple ingredients, though: sugar and water.
Mix cane sugar and water at a one to one ratio in a pot and bring it to a boil, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Once it is boiling, turn down the heat to as low as you can while maintaining a steady boil and cover the pot. Keep it on the heat for about fifteen minutes, until it has been reduced by at least half.
This is what you should do. I didn’t think that was enough and decided to give it considerably longer to reduce and caramelize. It smelled great but it had basically turned to rock candy by the time I was done. I had to add cider into it just to get it close enough to liquid to get into the carboy.
For this recipe, I used three cups each of sugar and water. I dumped half a gallon or so of colder than room temperature cider into the carboy first, then the rest of that gallon into the caramel to help mix it, then dumped that into the carboy, too. I went for the second gallon and slowly added some to the pot, stirred it up and scraped off as much of the sugar as I could then added that portion to the carboy and repeated. With two gallons in, I added the rest of the sugar to the pot and began mixing it with cider, but not caramelizing it.
I mentioned in my tasting notes for last years Mulled Cider that I wondered how high I could push the alcohol and keep it hidden, so I wanted to take this a little higher than the 7% ABV in that cider. I had a pound of dark brown sugar left from the Sweet Cider I made this week so I decided to use that and another pound and a half of white sugar. I didn’t check the cider’s OG before adding sugar but it is the same stuff I used for the Sweet Cider less than a week ago and that was 1.055 OG. At the end, the OG was 1.080, but I think there is still a good bit of caramel in rock form in there that will hopefully dissolve over time. This cider should be well over 9% ABV, but the exact number could be hard to figure out.
With sugar in the pot, I added a gallon of cider and put it back over low heat while I stirred. I kept going until the sugar was dissolved and then dumped it in the carboy. I added some more cider and stirred some more to make sure I got all of the sneaky sugar and repeated this with the rest of the cider to be sure I got it all.
For yeast, I decided to go with Lavlin D-47 wine yeast. I have never used it before but I’m planning to utilize it for the upcoming Amy and Mitch’s Third Anniversary Mead. With all of the other flavors going on in this cider, I don’t think the yeast will have a chance to give much flavor, it is said to help retain body and sometimes residual sweetness, though which should be good here.
All the cider and sugar being in the carboy, I added the rehydrated yeast and gave the carboy another good shake before adding a stopper and airlock.
I plan to let the cider ferment out, I’m hoping in about a week. Once visible fermentation has subsided, I’ll rack it onto two vanilla beans and two cinnamon sticks. I’ll give this another two weeks or so and then get ready to bottle. I’m undecided about whether I’ll be back sweetening or not. The Splenda worked well last year, but I’m hoping it will retain some sweetness and have a candy like flavor from the caramel and vanilla so it may not need it. Only time will tell. The numbers for this batch are below.
Yellow Cat Candy Cider (2014)
Brew Date: October 23, 2014
Approximate Serve Date: November 27, 2014
Estimated FG: 1.01
Estimated ABV: 9.2%