Accidentally Cooking

Documenting my mistakes in the garden, kitchen and pantry

Leave a comment

Honey Apple Wine

Terminology in the realm of homebrew fruit wines starts to get real complicated real quick. My most recent project is a perfect example of this. Fermented apple cider is typically called cider, though if you get the alcohol content high enough and you don’t carbonate it, the result is probably more accurate to call apple wine. Honey wine is, of course, mead. If you mix apple cider with honey and ferment it, the result is typically called cyser, though the more general term for a fruit-flavored mead is melomel.

The word “cyser” seems to me like a play on the word “cider”. So if I were making something like a cider, but used honey instead of ordinary sugar I would certainly call it a cyser. However, I pushed the starting gravity all the way up to 1.100, which is going to yield something closer to wine strength (and hopefully with plenty of residual sweetness). Since the end result I’m aiming for is not  “cider-like”, it seems funny to me to call it a “cyser”.

The name “Apple Melomel” seems like it might be a good choice, but I feel like that obscures the situation: Apple is the star of the show, highlighted with the flavor of honey. This is basically the same thing as my Caramel Apple Wine, if we replace the caramel syrup with honey instead. So, following that pattern, I’m going to call this one “Honey Apple Wine”.

Honey Apple Wine

  • Apple Cider
  • Honey [1]
  • Yeast [2]
  • Pectic Enzyme [3]
  • Yeast Nutrient

Add honey to the apple cider to bring the starting gravity to 1.100 [4]. Bring to a boil in a large pot to sterilize. Skim off foam, which can contain leftover wax and other waste products. Mix in pectic enzyme. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature (at least 1 hour).

Pitch yeast as instructed and add yeast nutrient. Move the mixture to the primary container, attach air lock. Rack to secondary when fermentation has stopped or slowed significantly.



On the left of this picture is my Caramel Apple Wine, which is a much darker, redder color and is slowly starting to clarify.


  1. I used a local clover honey.
  2. I went to the brew store looking for White Labs WLP-775 “English Cider” yeast. That was out of stock, so I picked up a packet of “Cider House Select” yeast, which seems specialized for cider but for which I can’t find any information online.
  3. This is the first batch I’ve made with pectic enzyme. I didn’t see any obvious change at pitch, but I’m expecting some improvements later to clarity.
  4. I added 2 cups of honey to the cider, boiled it, cooled it, and took a gravity reading. The intention was to use white sugar to bump up to 1.100. However, when I took the reading I was at 1.100 almost exactly, so I left it as is. It was a happy accident, but I wasn’t expecting the SG to go so high on only 2 cups of honey.

Leave a comment

Caramel Apple Wine

I’ve been making a bunch of fruit wines this year, but most of those are just ways for me to kill time. What I’m really excited about making is hard apple cider and apple wine, and I have a few jugs available to make several batches. I have a gallon batch of apple wine going right now, and am planning another gallon batch of hard cider soon. Whats left are my two half-gallon jugs, which are the perfect size for things which are a little bit more experimental. For the first one I decided to create a batch of Caramel Apple Wine. This recipe is for a half-gallon batch. Scaling it up should be pretty straight-forward to a point. Too much sugar in the pot will be hard to caramelize. You might need to work in batches.

The regular subscriber (and I suspect there is only one) will notice that this recipe has been heavily influenced by the Caramel Apple Jam recipe I posted a while back, and which has been a household favorite since I first made it.

Caramel Apple Wine

  • Apple Cider
  • White Sugar
  • 1/2 Tsp Vanilla Extract
  • Yeast: Cotes des Blancs
  • Starting Gravity: 1.104
  • Yeast Nutrient

Add 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water to a high-walled stockpot. Cook over medium heat, stirring only if necessary, until the sugar turns a deep brown. Add in 4 cups of apple cider and stir until all the caramelized sugar is dissolved. I didn’t let the cider come to a boil, but I don’t think it will hurt too much if you do.

Add the caramel cider and another 4 cups of cider (8 cups total) to a mixing bucket. Add enough sugar to bring the gravity up to 1.100 (for me, it was another cup). Add in vanilla extract to taste (my home-made extract is less strong than most store-bought varieties, so you may want to start smaller. A subtle vanilla flavor to compliment the caramel is all I wanted).  Funnel the must into a sterilized half-gallon jug. If there is any left over, save it for topping off after the trip to secondary.

I added 1/2 Tsp of the yeast nutrient up front. I have been using a staggered feeding schedule for some of my other brews, but for this one I added all the nutrient up front.

Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature before pitching the yeast.


 First Test

I stole my customary taste-test during the rack to secondary. The wine definitely tastes of caramel apple, though the caramel flavor is not as strong as I expected. I’ll probably do a lot of second-guessing about both the amount of caramelized sugar I used and also the amount it was caramelized. Did I let it get dark enough, or did I panic and take it off the heat too soon? Did I just not make enough?

In a few months when it’s good and ready I’ll taste it again with a definite eye towards making sure the caramel flavor is properly balanced. Maybe it will pop out more when the mixture mellows out after aging.

Leave a comment

Apple Wine

One of my favorite parts of autumn is the fresh apple cider. We’ve been lucky enough to find a local brand of it which we like very much: sweet and mild with just a little tartness and no bitterness. It tastes great but is also has another awesome feature: it contains no preservatives.

I’m not the kind of person who dislikes chemicals and preservatives on principle. In a lot of cases, preservatives are extremely important, helping to keep food items that are otherwise perishable from spoiling. But with apple cider, one of the best things about it is that it ferments. I like to leave apple cider in the fridge for a week or more, until it just starts getting some sparkle and tang to it. I also like hard cider and apple wine. I picked up a gallon of cider for fermenting (and a second gallon, just for drinking. And some apple cider donuts, just because) and decided to put together a batch.

When I see recipes for hard apple cider on the internet, I frequently see people adding in apple juice concentrate to the mix. The theory, I think, is that the concentrate is cheap, it adds sugar, and it increases the apple flavor. I already have a product like that in my fridge from last year: boiled apple cider syrup. Since the apple cider we use has very little tartness and has a mild flavor, I decided to add some of that boiled syrup to the mix as well.


Apple Wine

I’m going to leave off units of measure for this recipe, because it’s easy to scale up or down. The batch I made was 1 gallon, but all the same things apply for a 3 or 5 gallon batch as well. Since I finally own a hydrometer, I can give specific gravity readings.

  • Apple Cider [1]
  • Boiled Apple Cider Syrup [2]
  • Brown Sugar
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Yeast [3]
  • Yeast Nutrient

Start the yeast ahead of time in a small amount of cider, warmed to room temperature. Allow the yeast to hydrate and build up a bit of foam so you know it’s active.

Add the bulk of the apple cider to a bucket. Mix in the syrup and take a gravity reading with your hydrometer. Add sugar (I did half-and-half with the brown and the white) to bring the specific gravity up to 1.100. Transfer to your fermenter. Add the yeast and yeast nutrient and swirl well to mix.

When the fermentation slows down, rack to secondary and wait. I’ll post an update when we get that far. For now, as you can see, we’re still bubbling away.



  1. Use any kind of apple cider or juice that you like drinking EXCEPT it may not contain preservatives. Preservatives are chemicals that kill or control yeast (among other microbial baddies), which is exactly the opposite of what you want. There are ways to use cider which contains Potassium Sorbate, if that’s the only preservative it contains.
  2. I boiled down 1 gallon of cider to about a pint or more of syrup. From that, I used about a cup or less in this recipe for 1 gallon of cider. I probably could have added more. Keep in mind that the boiled syrup, because of the heat of making it, is going to have a different flavor profile from fresh cider. So it will add more flavor, but slightly different flavor. It’s also going to add more acid, which could be problematic if your cider is already tart. I thought about adding this to the secondary as well, but decided to try it in primary instead.
  3. I used Red Star Cotes des Blancs. This was recommended to me as a yeast which is good for fruit wines and will finish sweet. I had originally bought this for a peach wine that I thought had stuck. I also picked up my hydrometer at the same time and when I tested the peach wine I saw that it indeed had fermented out. So, I kept this packet of yeast to use for cider.

Leave a comment

Apple Review: William’s Pride

Before the ubiquity of Honey Crisp and Granny Smith, I thought I hated apples. The ones you got at the store were almost always one of three varieties: Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Macintosh. I didn’t like any of them. They were mealy and lousy. But, of those three, the one that I hated most of all was Macintosh.

Honestly if you gave me a bushel of Macintosh apples, I would be torn between using them to line my compost pile or just putting them out with the weekly trash. They are horrid little things and I will never understand why people eat them. The flesh is soft and mealy, the skin is thick and waxy. The flavor is lousy. Macintosh are to apples what grapefruit are to citrus.

Once we found a bottle of “Macintosh Juice” for sale, and I bought it on a final attempt to find redemption in this little apple. Dana and I both poured ourselves little glasses of it, tasted it, and dumped the rest down the drain. Terrible. Absolutely terrible.

We were at the orchard picking peaches in early August, and were alerted to the fact that there were some early varietals of apples ready for picking too. The apple in question was Williams’ Pride, one we had never tasted before. It wasn’t until we were already committed, sitting in the wagon with buckets in hand, that the farmhand described them as “like a macintosh”. Great.

We picked half a bucket of them to test, without high hopes. When we came home I rinsed one off, cut a slice, and took a bite.

Actually, they’re really pretty good. Maybe it’s just because it’s August, and we haven’t had fresh apples in months, but I really think they’re a decent apple. There are definite similarities with macintosh, I can see why the farmhand described them that way. However, they don’t have any of the problems. The skin isn’t thick or waxy. The flesh is crisp. The flavor is slightly tart, reminiscent of Jonathan (which itself is pretty good, though not my favorite).

Overall, Williams Pride is a decent apple in general and is pretty amazing for the time of year when it comes in season. If you’re jonesing for apples in late July or early August, Williams Pride is going to hit the spot. Later in the season you’d do much better with Gala, Jonathan or Honeycrisp instead.

Leave a comment

Apple Fruit Leather

I wrote this post last year towards the end of apple season but never posted it. Here it is now, to fill space.

I’m wracking my brain trying to think of a substance less appetizing than leather. Honestly, have you ever tasted leather? Without going into much detail about how we know this, leather isn’t food and it tastes terrible. This is why it always amazes me when people refer to dehydrated fruit puree as “fruit leather”. Sure, they’re talking about the texture, not the flavor. I know that. But it seems weird to name such a tasty food product after something that is so decidedly not “tasty”. I’ll call it “Fruit Leather” because that’s what everybody else calls it (and the other options in the thesaurus are even worse). Just keep in mind that I do so under protest.

Dana was all like “Your preserving stuff is taking up too much space in the fridge”. And I was all like “whatever, woman, step off!”. I mean, I didn’t say it out loud. She’d have been totally pissed if I did. Can you imagine? I’d still be sleeping outside.

Needing to clear some space in the fridge and not having any other great ideas, I pulled out a container of apple sauce and dumped it into the dehydrator.

Apple Leather

  1. Apple Sauce
  2. Vegetable Oil

I know there are ways to do this in the oven, but I used the dehydrator. If you don’t have a dehydrator sitting around, don’t rush out to get one just for this project. But I did have one, and it was convenient enough.

Use a fruit leather tray, which probably comes with your dehydrator. Put a small amount of vegetable oil on a napkin or piece of cloth and rub down the tray. A thin layer of the oil helps to prevent sticking later. Spread your apple sauce or other prepared fruit puree on the tray and put it into the dehydrator. Follow any instructions to create fruit leather.

The instructions for mine said to dehydrate at 135° for 4-10 hours. I did this in the evening after work, so I didn’t have that much time. I did it at 135° for about 5 hours and it wasn’t done before we went to bed. So I turned the temperature down to 115° and went to bed.

When I checked first thing in the morning, the leather was done.


It’s hard to argue with how easy this process is. It’s up there with creating apple chips or even dried tomatoes. Put it in the dehydrator, set it up according to the instructions, and completely ignore it for a few hours. The hardest part of the whole process is spreading the apple sauce out evenly so it dries evenly.

I didn’t add any sugar or seasonings. The sauce was plenty sweet enough all by itself (I used Fuji, Stayman-Winesap and mostly Braeburn apples). Next time I may add some cinnamon or pie spices to the mix for a little extra holiday flair. I may also try to mix in some other fruit puree if I can find something that I like at this time of year.


Apple Sauce and Oat Bread

Every once in a while, a recipe comes along pinterest and grabs my attention enough to stop what I’m doing and make it. Yesterday a recipe came along that really caught my attention for several reasons:

  1. It was a bread recipe, and I’ve been thinking about starting make more bread
  2. It used apple sauce, and I had a half-used jar of apple sauce in the fridge that I was trying to find a use for and
  3. The pictures in the original recipe looked so good

The recipe called for two ingredients that I didn’t have on hand: coconut sugar and oat flour. A brief rummage through the internet lead me to believe that I could substitute coconut sugar for refined white sugar 1:1, and a quick trip to the store picked me up a little bag of oat flour for cheap.

Yes, I recognize that refined white sugar may have the same sweetening ability but loses out on some of the other benefits of coconut sugar. My version of this bread should not be considered to be as healthy as the original.

When we first saw the recipe, both Dana and I thought that it looked a little bland. But, I was convinced, it would be a great baseline recipe on which we could make modifications later, once we know what it tasted like.

Apple Sauce and Oat Bread

  • 1 cup Oat Flour
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix together the Flour, salt and baking powder together in a bowl. In a mixing bowl, combine the egg, vanilla, sugar and apple sauce. Mix until incorporated and smooth. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients until incorporated. Slowly mix in the milk until smooth. Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.


Right out of the oven, this bread is surprisingly good. It’s sweet and has a little bit of caramelization around the edges. The texture is soft and a little fally-aparty, but with a little bit of butter it’s a very tasty snack. We were both worried the recipe would be a bit bland, but overall we were quite happy with it and will definitely make it again (with variations).


You really can’t taste the apple sauce, so it’s not an “apple-flavored” bread but the sauce does add moisture and body to it. It’s a simple, sweet bread recipe with a great texture and relatively neutral flavor.


While making this recipe, and during tasting, there were a few ideas we had to change it up and tailor it for different occasions:

  1. Less sugar. The bread came out a little more sweet than we might normally like. I don’t know if this is because of the sugar substitution. Next time, I may use less sugar.
  2. Add some pie seasonings, like cinnamon and/or nutmeg. 1/2 tsp cinnamon might be a good place to start for a cinnamon-flavored bread
  3. Find a way to add more apple. We were expecting an apple flavor, and were a little disappointed when it didn’t come through. Maybe we could add a layer of apple slices, like a jewish apple cake, or we could substitute some of the sugar for my boiled apple cider syrup (to make the result a little less sweet, and give it a bit of tartness). Or maybe, and this starts to get wild, we add some dollops of apple pie filling here and there to the batter with some swirls.
  4. Chocolate chips. They work great with banana bread, and I imagine this bread would play excellent host to them as well.
  5. Substitute some of the sugar for brown sugar.

Leave a comment

Cherry Cyser

I mentioned in the post on Cherry Melomel that different additives give mead different names. The problem with these names is that if you go off-recipe (as I often do), it’s not always obvious what to call your creations. Last time I started a batch of Cherry Melomel, a mead with chopped cherries. This time I was cleaning out my fridge and found two containers of juice that needed to go: Cherry cider and Apple Cider. I mixed the two with my remaining honey to make another batch of flavored mead.

A fermented beverage with apple cider and honey is typically called a “Cyser. I think it’s a weird play on “cider” (many of these mead variety names have a ‘y’ jammed in the name somewhere, for reasons I do not understand). A cherry mead doesn’t really have a common special name, besides the generic “Cherry Melomel”. Unlike the Cherry Melomel that I started last time, this batch uses a blend of cherry juice  and apple cider instead of water and whole cherries.

The apple cider isn’t the most prominent ingredient, so I hesitated to call this a cyser, but then again my last recipe was called “Cherry Melomel”, so I have to call this something different.

Cherry Cyser (Cherry Melomel)

  1. 3 Cups Cherry Cider
  2. 2 Cups Sweet Apple Cider
  3. 3 Cups water (bottled spring water) [1]
  4. 1 Cup Honey
  5. Yeast [2]
  6. Yeast nutrient or other chemicals [3]

Mix the cherry cider, apple cider, water and honey in a large stock pot. Under medium-low heat, bring the mixture up to a near boil (do not boil completely, about 170°F) and pasteurize like this for 10 minutes [4]. Stir frequently, adjust temperature so it does not boil, and skim some of the foam off the top if possible. When pasteurization is complete, turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature (no warmer than 100°F)

During this time, sanitize your primary fermentation container, funnel, airlock and any other equipment.

Funnel your mixture into the fermentation container. Pitch in your yeast, yeast nutrient and any other chemicals you need. Cap and shake to distribute the ingredients and give a little oxygen to get the yeast started. Apply the airlock and allow to ferment, undisturbed, about 2 weeks or until bubbling has stopped or slowed to a crawl. After that, rack to secondary and allow to condition (racking every few weeks, as needed) until the mead is clear and good to drink.

Potassium Sorbate

One thing I didn’t realize in my haste, was that the apple cider I used this time (unlike the cider used in my first two batches of hard cider) contained Potassium Sorbate. Potassium Sorbate is a preservative that prevents yeast from reproducing. Manufacturers use pasteurization to kill existing yeast, and add potassium sorbate to prevent newly added yeast from propagating.

When I pitched my yeast into the mixture nothing happened. The potassium sorbate was preventing the inactive yeast from reactivating and getting the fermentation process started.

To get around this issue, and prevente myself from wasting all the valuable (and tasty ingredients) I created a starter. Potassium Sorbate only stops yeast from reproducing, it doesn’t stop existing yeast from going about normal business. If you create a starter, the yeast can grow and reproduce a little bit first, before you pitch it into the mead. This allows fermentation to continue like normal. A starter basically contains:

  1. Yeast
  2. Honey or sugar (I used about 1 Tbsp honey)
  3. Water  (I used about 3Tbsp, bottled spring water)

Mix the ingredients together and allow to sit, loosely covered, overnight. The mixture should be bubbly or fizzy by the morning. Pitch in this mixture to your mead, and wait for it to start bubbling.


After the initial scare from the potassium sorbate, the wort fermented actively. After the first day, there was no indication that anything was off about it.

I grabbed a small taste when I racked it the first time. This mixture was much drier than my previous cherry melomel, and had a good amount of fizz in it. The was decent, kind of ale-like, a little harsh, and with very little cherry or apple flavor to be found. I’m hoping that after a month or two of conditioning the harshness will go away and some of the fruit flavors will start to shine through again.


  1. I used the cider I had available, 3 cups of the cherry and 2 cups of the apple. I topped off with water. If I had more cider, I would have used it instead of the water.
  2. I used my remaining packet of champagne yeast
  3. I used basic yeast nutrient, but there are other things that could be tried. Pectic Enzyme might be helpful if you’re looking for a clear result (I don’t care about clarity). Eventually, something like a metabisulfite would be used to kill off the remaining yeasts when fermentation is complete
  4. If you have a thermometer, your mixture should be over 180°F for 10 minutes. I don’t, so I winged it.
  5. Yeast may like to be pitched at a temperature higher than room temperature, to jolt them back into action. Follow whatever instructions come with your yeast.