[Note: If you want a recipe for a ridiculously easy, but mind-boggling-ly great loaf of bread to bake, see my related post “Awesome 5-Hour Bread Recipe for Knuckleheads. Total Time Off Couch: 5 minutes” http://wp.me/p15xE1-om ]
German Hard Apple Cider [“Apfelwein”] for Knuckleheads. You can’t screw up this recipe, it’s so simple — and the hard cider is, needless to say, excellent. (Sir Charles Barkley was interviewed toward the end of his career, and was asked how the recent playing days compared to when he started out. His response: “When I was younger, I could carry all the other knuckeheads on my own team; now I just can’t carry the knuckleheads.”)
You are indoors. Cranky, because it’s still winter. But, actually, it’s not, here in Maine. Fifty-five degrees today, for about a half hour this afternoon. It’s like Carolina, down in the Duke Gardens, throwing a frisbee and then trying to disappear somewhere with your girlfriend outdoors, or go back to Epworth, with some Boone’s Farm.
But then the wind came in from the northwest late this afternoon, and the clouds. And now it broods. The Liverpudlians in the Irish bar down by the water on Commercial St – Everton vs. Liverpool – and they’ve turned it up crankin’ loud, and the pudgy woman with the squdgy speech impediment is on her feet, while the Liverpool team blows it. And the front doors to the bar are wide-open, while I pull my wool up to my chin, thinking, well maybe they’ll attract ’em inside here, but I’m leavin’. The dog’s in the jeep on a backseat rug, and I’m cold, so I’m movin’.
Leave all that, and let’s think of Lena. Lena is the goddess we prayed to at UMaine, back thirty years ago, the goddess of yeast and – to quote Sammy Chase – “of dis-equilibrium!” [There are definitely other goddesses to whom you ought pray at some other junctures in your life.] Sammy, as I recall him now, was feeding the 55-gallon-drum woodstove set on it’s side, through the stove’s front end feed-hole cut out with tin snips the previous autumn, stuffing in green alder-twigs and some four-foot maple we’d stolen from the city of Orono’s refuse pile, and the cheap all-rust metal glowed hot and worried. “LENA!” Sammy would shout, “Lena!” — the below-zero cold slamming up off the river there out front, the one-pane old windows with no caulk sieving cold – “Here’s to LENA!”
Condom-Wine: There was a quick recipe we used back then, and you can copy this.
1 package of active dry yeast (found in any grocery store in the baking supply section)
4 cups granulated sugar
1 12-ounce can juice concentrate
4 quarts water
1 sterile gallon glass jug
1 large latex balloon
1 rubber band
You get it. Put the condom over the mouth of the jug. Then put a rubber band around the mouth, even though you probably don’t need it. Then wait. It’s not for the impatient, because within the course of ten to fourteen days, you’re gonna see drama. The ballon or the condom will inflate, blow right up. You’ll notice it, because that jug is like your conscience, it won’t go away, and you keep going back, probably every day, usually when no one’s looking, over the ensuing ten days or so, just to ….. check. Just you and the jug. But then the condom deflates, as yes, all things inflated must eventually reduce. But not to worry, because that’s the sign that this rotgut is ready to be had. That’s all. Give it a rip.
But that’s not why we’re here. Here’s what’s a whole lot better. Hard Apple Cider. Specifically, Ed’s Apfelwein. This is the easiest quickest way to good hard apple cider. No brains. You can be sloshed when you make this. But before you get sloshed, stop at two places: Whole Foods, and the beer/winemaking store. Let me repeat: this is REALLY easy. And good. Here’s your shopping list:
Whole Foods: 1 gallon (glass jug) of Apple Juice. It’ll cost you either $7.99 or $8.99. Pretty dear, as we say here in Maine, for some jeezly apple juice. But think of it for a minute. If you go to the beer-brew store, they’ll charge you five bucks just for an empty one gallon jug. This way, you get the jug and some apple juice for a couple bucks more.
Beer Store: 1 packet of Montrechet yeast. [Might cost you 60 cents to $2.00, depending on how much your beer store guy rips people off]
Beer Store: 1 airlock. (two bucks?)
Here’s what you do:
1. Pour out a small glass of apple juice to make some space for the other ingredients.
2. Pour 1/4 pound of brown sugar in to jug and shake to break down the sugar. Don’t worry too much about quantity of sugar; you can’t screw it up. Just shake it good, shake your booty.
3. Add yeast (you only need about half, or less, of the packet) and shake to mix it in.
4. Put Number 6 rubber plug in top.
5. Put the airlock in the hole in the plug. [That’s that funny twisted clear-plastic thingy you bought at the beer store.] Fill the airlock half full with vodka. Don’t ask questions, just do it. Vodka helps keep out bacteria, etc.
6. Wait for 4 weeks and you should have tasty Apfelwein on the cheap. Along the way, you’ll hear the chirping of bubble-up through the airlock. Very exciting bubbles.
That’s it. It’s hard apple cider. About 8.9% Alcohol By Volume. It’s Bavarian. And you know how those Bavarians are, mellow, many of them. You’ll be mellow, and it’ll be Cinco de Mayo. Glorious. Here’s to Lena, and dis-equilibrium. And Parva Domus Magna Quies (“Small House, Great Peace”)