In this post, we will look at how to make apple jack, a distilled spirit made by fermenting apple cider and then distilling it, similar to how whiskey and other liquors are made.
Apple Jack has a long history that goes back as far as colonial America, where it was actually called “apple moonshine” and still is in many places.
As with other distilled spirits, the key to making applejack lies in the fermentation and distillation process. To make it you first start by fermenting apple cider, which contains the natural sugars that will be converted into alcohol by yeast. Once fermented the liquid is now called hard cider, it is then distilled to create a higher alcohol content. Like most other whiskeys Applejack typically has an alcohol content of around 40% ABV.
The aging process is an essential aspect of producing applejack, as it contributes to the overall flavor and character of the spirit. Traditionally, applejack is aged in oak barrels, which imparts it with a warm, mellow flavor and a pleasant sweetness to the final product. The aging process can range from a few months to several years, depending on the desired flavor profile and characteristics of the applejack.
Safety is crucial when making applejack at home, particularly during the distillation process. It is essential to use proper equipment, follow safety guidelines, and adhere to local regulations regarding the distillation of spirits.
Ingredients Required to Make Apple Jack
To make Apple Jack, you will need the following ingredients:
– Apples: Choose fresh, ripe apples of your preferred variety. Red apples are often used for their natural sweetness.
– Apple cider: Use fresh apple cider or apple juice as the base for your Apple Jack.
– Sugar: Brown sugar is commonly used in this recipe, but you can also use rapadura or cane sugar.
– Yeast: Brewer’s yeast is essential for fermenting the apple cider and producing alcohol.
– Cinnamon sticks: These add a warm, spicy flavor to your Apple Jack and complement the natural sweetness of the apples.
Additionally, you’ll need some water, salt, and lemon zest for the recipe.
Equipment Required to Make Apple Jack
The following is the basic equipment and utensils you’ll need to make your Apple Jack:
– A sealable five-gallon container: This will be used to ferment the apple cider mixture.
– A fermenting airlock: This device allows carbon dioxide gas from the fermenting process to escape while preventing outside air and contaminants from entering.
– A large pan: You will use this to cook the apples and dissolve the sugar.
How to Make Apple Jack
Preparing the Base
To make apple jack, you’ll first need to gather your ingredients and supplies. Prepare a base of apple cider by pressing fresh apples to extract the juice, or purchasing unpasteurized cider. You will need about 5 gallons of cider for the batch. For fermentation, choose an appropriate brewing container, like a food-grade bucket or carboy. You will also need an airlock to control the fermentation process.
The next step in the process is the apple fermentation. Begin by adding yeast to the cider. You can use a champagne yeast or specialized cider yeast to achieve the desired alcohol content. Mix the yeast thoroughly into the apple cider, and then pour the mixture into your fermentation vessel. Attach the airlock to the container to help prevent contamination and maintain proper pressure as the yeast converts the sugar in the cider to alcohol.
It is important to keep the fermentation process at a consistent temperature, ideally around 60-70°F (15-21°C). Fermentation typically takes about 2-3 weeks, depending on the yeast and environmental conditions. Once the fermentation is complete, you’ll want to test the alcohol content using a hydrometer. Aim for an alcohol content of around 6-7%.
After fermentation, the apple cider will need to be distilled in order to concentrate the alcohol content. This can be done using a traditional distillation method with a still. Heating the fermented cider in the still will separate the alcohol from the water, increasing the overall alcohol content. Collect the distillate in a separate container, which should now have a higher proof (about 40-50%).
The Freezing Technique
An alternative to traditional distilling for producing apple jack is known as freeze distillation. This method relies on the idea that alcohol and water freeze at different temperatures. Start by transferring the fermented cider to a freezer-safe container and placing it in the freezer. As the temperature drops, the water in the cider will begin to freeze while the alcohol remains liquid. Periodically remove the ice from the container, which will leave behind a more concentrated alcohol solution. Repeat this process until the desired alcohol content and taste is achieved.
Remember always to follow safety precautions during the brewing and storage process, and enjoy your homemade Apple Jack responsibly.
Serving and Enjoying Apple Jack
Proper Serving Method
Apple Jack is a versatile drink that can be enjoyed in various ways. To fully appreciate its distinctive flavor and rich amber color, it’s important to serve it properly. It is recommended to serve Apple Jack at room temperature, especially during the colder months of the year. This allows the flavors to open up and provide a smoother drinking experience.
In the summer, you may prefer to serve Apple Jack over ice. Simply pour a measure of the spirit into a short glass, then add a couple of large ice cubes. This will slightly dilute the drink, allowing its full flavor profile to shine through while also providing a refreshing chill.
Another option is to serve Apple Jack with a splash of water. This enhances its taste and makes the drink more palatable, especially for those who are new to Tennessee whiskey. Fill a glass with Apple Jack and add a small amount of water to taste. This method is particularly enjoyable during the winter months, when the warming notes of the drink can be comforting.
Combining with Other Drinks
Apple Jack can also be used as a base in cocktails or mixed drinks. Its distinctive flavor pairs well with a variety of ingredients, including fruit, herbs, and spices. Here are some ideas to get you started:
– Peachy Apple Jack: Add a slice of fresh peach to your glass and muddle it gently to release its juices. Fill the glass with ice, pour Apple Jack over the top, and top up with soda water. This refreshing drink is perfect for summer outings.
– Apple Jack and Ginger: Combine Apple Jack with ginger ale or ginger beer in a tall glass filled with ice. The spicy ginger notes complement the fruity flavor of Apple Jack, making this an easy-to-drink cocktail all year round.
– Winter Apple Jack Warmer: Warm up during the colder months with this comforting drink. Mix Apple Jack with hot water, honey, lemon juice, and a cinnamon stick. Enjoy this soothing beverage by the fire for a cozy winter experience.
Experiment with different combinations to find your favorite way to enjoy Apple Jack. Its unique flavor and versatility make it a great addition to any home bar.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the traditional method for producing Applejack?
The traditional method for producing Applejack involves fermenting apple cider and then freeze distilling it. This process, also known as “jacking,” is achieved by allowing the fermented cider to freeze partially, separating the alcohol as it doesn’t freeze, and then collecting the concentrated alcoholic liquid.
How can apple cider be turned into Applejack?
Apple cider can be turned into Applejack through freezing and distillation. After fermenting apple cider to create hard cider, you’ll partially freeze it, which causes the alcohol to separate from the water content. The liquid that doesn’t freeze, due to its alcohol content, is drained off and collected. This process may be repeated two or three times to achieve a higher alcohol concentration.
What distinguishes Applejack brandy from other brandies?
Applejack brandy differs from other brandies in its main ingredient and production process. While most brandies are produced from grape-based wines and distilled using heat, Applejack brandy is made from fermented apple cider and traditionally uses freeze distillation. Aged Applejack may have flavor profiles similar to whiskey, but its unique apple base and production method set it apart from other brandies.