From apples to wine
September is the month for apple. In villages throughout the country signs go up along the street calling for apples. The going rate for a kilo of apples is 1.5 kc.( about 5 cents a pound) Scales are set up to weigh the apples which are gathered by young men and women. Lorries arrive on a weekly basis carrying big blue or green containers for apple collecting. The apples go to processing plants for juice, and syrup. In just a few weeks all the apples are gathered from the trees along the byways, the last containers are picked up and the scales are put away until the next year.
Although apples grow abundantly here, making apple cider and wine doesn’t seem to be a tradition in the Czech Republic. Some people take their apples to the distilleries to have them turned into alcohol. A few people press their apples and bottle the juice. Recently there has been a few companies making cider commercially but not many people make cider and wine at home.
Each September we gather our apples and press out the juice. Then I start the fermentation and by Christmas we drink our first glass of apple wine. The wine continues to improve through the winter. In spring we drink apple wine with our friends as we sit on the terrace catching the first warm rays of sun.
For the past few years we have gone to our friends house for an apple cider party. Maggie and Jaro host an apple pressing party every year. We all arrive in the morning with our cars filled with apples from our trees. Jaro has the equipment set up in his garden. We help them gather their apples and in exchange for using their equipment. We drink our fill of fresh juice, trying a little from each batch. We compare apples and vote on who has the sweetest juice. I always look forward to this wonderful day with friends. When all the apples are pressed we take our juice home and prepare it for wine. I clean the fermentation vats. Then add hot water and sugar to the juice. I let it cool over night. The next morning I test the sugar content with a hydrometer. If the volume of sugar is correct, I sprinkle the yeast on the surface of the juice in the vats. By the next day small bubbles begin to form on the surface of the juice. For a week I stir the juice in the vats twice a day. Then pour the juice in demijohns for the second stage of fermentation. I continue racking the wine until it is clear. Sometime in November I bottle it and put it in my cellar.
6 quarts ( 6 litres) of tart apple juice
3 pounds ( 1.5 kg.)of sugar
2 tea bags*
4 quarts (4 litres)water
Heat water to simmer, add sugar and tea bags, stir till all the sugar is dissolved. Pour in a primary vat with juice. Cover with lid and let cool. Test the volume of sugar with a hydrometer. A specific gravity of 1.090 will yield a dry wine of 12% alcohol. Cover, let ferment for one week. Strain into a secondary fermentation demijohn, fit with an airlock. When sediment forms at the bottom of the demijohn, rack off wine into a clean demijohn and fit with an airlock. When wine clears rack again. When bubbling subsides, bottle and store for 6 months to a year before drinking.
* The tea is high in tannic acid. Adding tea bags will improve the taste of the wine.