Boyle McCauley News

Since 1979 • February-March 2024 • Circulation 5000


I Tried Making Prison Hooch

Is home brewing as easy as it looks?

Bottles of hard apple cider. Lindsay Brommeland

Every fall, I seem to end up with a mountain of apples to deal with. My usual go-tos are fruit leather, apple chips, and breakfast crisps. This year, I was inspired by Netflix prison dramas to try making apple cider from home. If it can be done with a few kitchen scraps in a plastic baggie on TV, surely it can’t be that complicated.

Minutes of research taught me that the process can be as complicated as multi-step wine making (such as the time I tried to make wine from my backyard grapes and ended up with a large batch of red wine vinegar) with specialized equipment and chemicals. Or, it can be as easy as apple juice + sugar = booze. In theory, the wild apple skins have enough yeast that they can start fermentation on their own (yeast eats sugar and creates alcohol), so it is recommended that you keep the skins on when crushing your apples for juice. This didn’t work for me: after a day of watching my batch calmly doing nothing, I added a pack of brewer’s yeast from the Italian Centre. This kicked off fermentation and my cider bubbled away happily for about two weeks.

When the bubbles stop, fermentation is done. At this point, I measured the amount of alcohol with my hydrometer (collecting dust in my basement from the aforementioned wine making fail) to be 6%, the correct amount for beer and cider. Time to put it in bottles to age, though since the taste was super strong and a little flat, I decided to add a tablespoon of sugar to each one litre bottle (executive decision from a general knowledge of how champagne is made, plus experience with kombucha getting very bubbly after adding sugary fruit). I let the bottles sit for six weeks, then popped one open for a taste test.

The taste had mellowed, and the cider had developed a bit of effervescence. It is somewhere between cider and apple wine, and with a bit more maturing will make a decent fireside drink to force on my family and friends.

The best part? It was almost free, since I used only three ingredients: donated apples, sugar, and yeast. If you decide to try making hooch, let me know how it goes. You can borrow my hydrometer.

Lindsay Brommeland is a McCauley resident of 14 years who will try anything once.

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