The Winter 2015 batch of Apple Pie Cyser has been bottled and is now moving into history. Unlike 2013 and 2014, there were some unexpected... events... that affected the final product. It seemed like a good opportunity to talk about adjustments I made to the recipe, and a goof that turned out really well. So let me tell you about how things went...
Follow the Recipe... Sort of
I used my base recipe (check my link in the first paragraph), but added a couple of tweaks: I added raisins as a yeast booster (extra nutrients) and a new flavor for the mix; I also adjusted the back-sweetening mix after primary fermentation.
The world-famous Joe Mattioli's Ancient Orange and Spice Mead recipe includes a handful of raisins (the recipe says around 25 raisins for the 1-gallon recipe) to assist with the fermentation. If you're looking for a fast, easy mead, this recipe rocks. It's so good right out of primary fermentation it's hard to leave alone so it can age - and you can be drinking it a month or so after you start it if you like.
Using Joe's "raisin ratio" as a base - 25 raisins per gallon - I added about 1 cup of raisins to my 6-gallon batch. I wanted to see if I could reduce the sweetness of the original recipe and get a little more "bite," so I switched from Lalvin 71B-1122 Wine Yeast to Lalvin's KIV-1116 Yeast for Winemaking, which emphasizes the "fruity" flavors in white wines.
Finally, I doubled the cinnamon sticks to 6, and used about 5 tablespoons of Apple Pie Spice instead of 1.
When primary fermentation was done and it was time for back-sweetening, I reduced the dark brown sugar by about 1/3 and added an extra 1/2 gallon of apple juice (not concentrate). Then came the OOPS!
For back-sweetening, I include 2 cans of frozen apple juice concentrate per 3 gallons. It boosts the apple flavor in the mix, and provides extra sweetness.
This year... I wasn't paying attention: I thought I was adding plain apple juice concentrate. After I'd added the concentrate, I discovered I had added Apple-Strawberry-Kiwi!
Needless to say, this led to some worried moments as I waited for the secondary fermentation and clearing to occur. I can easily see strawberry in apple cyser... but kiwi!?!
I shouldn't have worried so much. Some of the best things have happened because of mistakes. For example, the iconic Slinky toy was invented when a clumsy engineer dropped a spring he was working on.
So a month or so later, I did the first taste test - and, dang, that was good! The strawberry and kiwi flavors meshed with the raisin flavor in an awesome way. I'm really happy with the results, and this one is going in my recipe notes for future use.
The lesson I take away from this is, when things don't happen the "right" way, good things can still come forth - and to remember not to be afraid to experiment a little.
Moving toward summer, I'll be reading about other simple, ancient wines, and making a few batches to see what they're like. I hope you'll keep reading - we can experiment together!