Cider was produced as a substitute for wine in many countries where the climate was too cold and damp to produce grapes and where there was an abundance of apples. Apple brandy, produced from the distilled cider has a long established tradition and the first official written references date back to the 16th century.
Normandy, in the northwest of France soon became known for producing the best apple brandy, known as Calvados. This area grows approximately 800 different kinds of apples of which only forty-eight varieties are recommended by law for making the cider. Calvados, a region in western Normandy just east of Rouen, is known for producing the best apple brandy.
To produce one bottle of Calvados you will need about 28 kg of apples. Most Calvados is either all apples, or a mixture of apples and pears. Before aging Calvados is colourless, produces a burning sensation on the palate, and has a fruity aroma. The special colour and enhanced flavour of this apple brandy comes from the interaction of the brandy with the casks, which impart wood tannins and the air in the cellar.
It is possible to speed up and shorten the process of fermentation from 6 weeks to about 8 days. A few days before you crush and press your apples select some good quality apples, crush and press these and leave the juice to ferment. Once this juice has started to ferment you may proceed to crush and press the rest of the apples. Then mix the fermenting juice in the apple juice. This fermenting juice will help to initiate the fermentation of the apple juice that much faster. You should mix the juice several times a day. The juice should be placed in open recipients.
The first distillation will produce results with an alcoholic concentration of about 30%. To produce Calvados a second distillation is needed. The heads and tails are separated and discarded. The Calvados from this 2nd distillation has an alcoholic concentration of about 70%.
Another recipe for (slightly spicy) Calvados is as follows:
- 6 kg (or 7kg apples if you use method 2) of soft (over ripe but not mouldy) apples (your favourite sweet apple variety)
- 3kg sugar
- 5g pectolase enzymes
- 15g distiller's yeast
- 1/3 stick of cinnamon (optional)
- 3 cloves (optional)
- 10 raisins
- 5 gram of French oak chips (or wooden barrel if you have)
- Method 1: (if you don't hav e a fruit press)
- Remove all stems from apples and cut into pieces
- Dissolve the sugar in 5 liters of boiling water
- Pour the boiling sugar water over the apples
- Mash the apples into a bucket that can take heat.
- let cool down to about 60 degree C and add the pectolase
- stir through and let stand
- keep at 60 degree C for 2 hours.
- Let the mash cool further to room temperature
- Aerate the mash well (10 minutes with an egg beater at high speed, or pour it from a heigh into anither bucket to allow a lot of splashing and aeration)
- Crush the cinnamon by hand and add to the mash. Add the cloves. stir into the mash
- Crush the raisins (to break the skins) and add to mash.
- Add the yeast and stirr into the mash.
- Let stand for 2 days in open fermentation bucket
- Strain through mutton cloth to remove pips and pour juice into sealable (wih airlock) fermentation bucket
- Let ferment until dry and let it settle (about 4-8 weeks)
- Method 2: (If you have a fruit press)
- Press the apples and collect the juice
- Add the water and juice into fermentation bucket.
- Add cinnamon, cloves and crushed raisins
- Add yeast and leave open for two days
- Seal fermenting bucket (with airlock) and allow to ferment dry and let it settle (about 4-6 weeks)
- Syphon the clear wine off (discard the sediment) .... and your apple wine is ready for distilling. (you may taste it but don't drink it all. Leave some for distilling!)
- Do a fast stripping run until distillate reaches about 20 %abv
- Nose the distillate (nosing 1)
- Dilute the distillate to about 30 %abv
- Do a second slow run and cut neatly (discard heads and most tails)
- Note the aroma of the distillate and compare it to the first nosing.(nosing 2)
- fill a port or sherry barrel and allow to age for at least 6 months before diluting it to between 30 and 45% abv for drinking.
- dilute, bottle with a few grams of french oak (medium roasted) chips, and age until colour is acceptable.
Note: If you would like to get a "stronger" more characteristic apple flavour and aromas, use less water during fermentation and depending on your experience with the 1st and 2nd nosing, run the stripping run for longer (i.e. up to 13% abv) and use some of the tail fractions (the nice apple fractions) to blend back into the second run's heart.