Perry : Pears :: Cider : Apples
Don’t you just love fruit and alcohol analogies presented using symbolic logic? I know I do. Oh, you don’t? Well this post ain’t gonna get any less logical. Or Symbolic. Or analogic. Yea, that last one isn’t a real word.
Some of you may remember that I made Pear Mead/Cider last year, and it turned out deliciously potent. The same generous lady who gave me a bucket-o-pears last year has given me a box-o-pears this year. I decided to do something a little different, foregoing the honey completely this time for a 100% fruit based beverage.
Last go-round, I juiced the pears using a food processor, which accidentally caused the fruit to prematurely oxidize, which I have since learned is a bad thing, which I have since learned should be avoided if you want your finished product to actually taste good, which I have since learned is an important characteristic of things people want to put into their mouths.
This go-round, I decided to get all Amish on the pears and crush them under the immense wooden weight of a manual fruit press!
I am fortunate to live very near Maryland Homebrew, who offer cider press rentals for a mere $15 for three days.
Note: A 50lb cider press does not fit into a Mini Cooper S very easily.
How to Brew Perry (Pear Cider)
Things you’ll need:
- ~30lbs of pears (ripe but not rotten, easily squishable with a strong grip)
- A fermentation bucket (5 gallons or bigger, for best results)
- A hammer (you’ll see why in a bit)
- A cider press (to squish them there fruits)
- A can opener (you’ll [also] see why in a bit)
- A large mash pot (to catch the juice)
- Cider or wine yeast (unless you want 5 gallons of pear juice instead of cider)
- Campden Tablets (in case you need to stabilize your batch)
- Beer! (or cider!)
Step 1: Mash up the pears
The kind and helpful staff at Maryland Homebrew suggested that I mash up my pears before trying to press them. Overestimating my Herculean strength and Odyssian ingenuity, I figured I could just use tools and brainpower to juice the pears without going through the trouble of turning them into pulp first.
As usual, I was wrong.
So, I hit them with a hammer.
This is an incredibly messy and fun process. Just spread out a tarp (or a series of plastic bags) and smash them there pears like they are your work computer right after it crashes in the middle of that huge document you’ve been working on for 6 hours straight.
Hopefully the pears are ripe enough that a few good thwacks will turn them into pear-puree. If not, you’ll be hammering for a while. Have fun with that.
Once you’ve got a big soggy heap of pear parts, drop them in your press.
Step 2: Supplement
At this point, you’ll realize that you don’t really have enough pears for the amount of juice you wanted to make a 5 gallon batch of perry. Short of going to find a local pear tree, your options are limited. I opted to harness the power of the industrial-culinary complex, and bought cans and cans of pear, floating in 100% pear juice.
If you buy store-brand, you can usually get cans for ~$1 a piece, and they contain a pair of pears with about 10 ounces of juice.
Open them things up. You can use the hammer again if you want, but a can opener might be a little less dangerous. Pour the extra juice into your mash pot to add even more sugar for your hungry, hungry yeast.
Step 3: Juice!
Now you can finally set to juicing the pile of fruit you’ve got sitting out on your back deck, exposed to the air and bugs and falling acorns. The style of press I used had a ratcheting handle that attached to two half-circles of wood that applied consistent downward pressure on the fruit. It was surprisingly effective, but also very labor intensive. I sweat despite the chilly weather.
I was genuinely surprised at how much liquid came out of these pears. I collected nearly 2.5 gallons after I had pressed and mixed the pears three times. I added this to my fermentation bucket, but realized I still needed a lot more liquid to get a full 5 gallon batch.
Step 4: Supplement again!
Don’t add water to your juice to get the volume you want, this will only (shocker!) water down the flavors. Instead, you can either 1) add unpasteurized apple cider (often found in the produce aisle during the fall months) or 2) use 100% pear juice (often found in 32 ounces bottles in the baby food aisle). The prior has more sugar for your yeast but will obviously add some apple flavor to the final product, the second has been clarified which can impact the final flavor as well.
I split the difference and used a little bit of both. Once you’ve reach 5 gallons, toss in your yeast and seal the bucket. Unlike beer, the airlock may not bubble like a mad science experiment. Don’t worry if it doesn’t. Every few days peak inside the bucket to make sure the yeast looks like it is doing its thing. You’ll be able to tell by the gross brown sediment that lines the bucket as the yeast eats up all of the sugar.
Congratulations! You’ve now got a batch of 100% fruit perry that will be ready to drink in 4-6 weeks.
Note: If the batch smells a little odd, or really yeasty, you can toss a few campden tablets into the bucket to make sure no nasty bacteria ruin your hard work.