I was pretty sure that the first batch of hard cider I made this season was going to ruin. To do it right, the first thing you’re supposed to do is dump in a carefully measured dose of food grade potassium bisulfite (also called Campden) or some other such thing that’s designed to annihilate every living organism in the general vicinity. As the story goes, the chemical breaks down or disappears or just loses its hostility within eighteen hours and leaves the juice sterile and all the sugar intact, just waiting for the cultured yeast that is specifically engineered to turn the juice into cider. Or wine, if that’s your goal, which it isn’t in my case.
Now, of course, simple country folk like me have been making cider without going through all that for several millennia. In fact, unless you boil the fresh juice or dump some kind of chemical into it, it’s pretty darn hard to keep it from turning into cider. The yeast that turns apple juice into cider is already there in the apples. Problem is, sometimes so is the yeast that continues the process and turns the cider into vinegar.
I’d read on the internet, and of course, you can’t put it on the internet if it’s not true, that the vinegar yeast tends to be on the outside of the apples. So, I started rinsing my apples in a very weak but still effective solution of bleach water and then rinsing them with clean water. Apparently, that makes a difference. Or else I was just plain lucky.
Like I said, I fully expected that first four or five gallons in the garage to have turned into vinegar. But, before I threw it away or gave it away to people who inexplicably find vinegar useful and desirable, I figured I should at least check it and be sure.
Expecting the sample to be about as sweet as alum, I took a very small sip. “Hmmm… this actually tastes a bit like hard cider.” So, I took a little larger sip. “Hmmm… this actually tastes quite a bit like hard cider.” So, I drew off another, larger sample. By the time I’d finished three or four more samples, I was convinced, “This is actually pretty darn good stuff.”
So, instead of filling a few plastic jugs with vinegar, I ended up filling up forty-eight glass bottles with cider. It’s a hard thing for a recovering pessimist to admit, but sometimes things do turn out better than I thought they might. And yet, even though the occasional shortcut might yield better results than expected, it’s still a good idea to make it a habit to use the process most likely to produce the desired outcome.
Of course, we can always just take our chances. I’ve found, though, that the less attention we give to getting rid of the negative stuff in our lives, hearts and minds, the more likely we are to taste vinegar.