Enhance Your Cider with Fruit
Using fruit other than apples in hard cider is common and adds great additional flavor. Some of the more common fruit selections are pear, cherry, peach and pineapple. Other options include mixed berries, blueberry, mango, blackberry. However, there is nothing stopping you from using other options, or mixing them to find a great combination.
This page will give a general overview for how to use fruit in making hard cider.
Forms of Fruit to Use in Hard Cider
Depending on the fruit, it may be available in standard grocery stores year-round, or you may have to get more creative or be more patient to get what you want. In general, the commonly used options are:
Using fresh fruit is a popular option. It could be store-bought or bought from a fruit stand or farmers market. Of course, you could also use fruit you have grown yourself. Many people are most interested in a specific fruit because they may have easy access to an abundance of it.
The downside to using fresh fruit is that it may not be available year-round and could be expensive if purchased in high quantities. Using fresh fruit does require you to pasteurize it (see below). Fresh fruit can be used whole, pureed, or juiced.
There are a wide variety of frozen fruits available year-round. Many grocery stores stock these and many consumers use them for smoothies or thaw and used in standard recipes. This option allows you to store it for longer, buy it year-round, and doesn’t require pasteurization. For best results, freeze and thaw the fruit several times before using to help release the juice from the pulp.
Syrups or canned pie mixes can also make a great option. Typically, these are very high in sugar and have a very strong fruit taste making them perfect for flavoring a hard cider. Although you may not be able to find all types of fruit in this format, if you do, it will likely be very affordable.
While not the best option, you can also use canned fruits to flavor hard cider. They are sometimes the easiest option as they are cheaper and more readily available and many of the other options. If used, you should consider whether to use the liquid the fruit is packed in. If it’s packed in water or light syrup, it could dilute the sugars and you might want to leave it out.
Frozen Juice Concentrate
Frozen concentrate can be a great option, because you don’t have to add a lot of water to get the fruit flavoring and sugar. However, be sure that you are using a product that would be 100% juice if reconstituted. Otherwise, you will get the sugar content, but not much fruit flavor.
Concentrated Artificial Flavoring
Concentrated artificial flavorings are relatively common in all types of homebrewing and you can often find them in a variety of flavors at a homebrew store. You’ll want to add these just before bottling. They usually are not fermentable, so they won’t convert to alcohol.
Whether purchased or homemade, fruit juice is another popular choice when making hard cider. Some types of juice are readily available in grocery stores, albeit some in small quantities and high prices.
When to Add Fruit to Hard Cider
Generally speaking, there are 3 different options for when to add fruit in the process of making hard cider.
Note: If you don’t know some of these terms or concepts, head over to the guide to making hard cider to learn or for a refresher.
Add to Primary Fermentation
The first option of when to add the fruit is during primary fermentation. In general, doing this will not result in a strong fruit taste in the hard cider because primary fermentation will ferment most of the sugar from the fruit.
If you do want to add fruit to primary fermentation, be sure to keep fermentation temperatures on the lower side of what the yeast allows (typically 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit). Also, you should consider adding additional fruit to secondary fermentation.
Add to Secondary Fermentation
Secondary fermentation is much less vigorous and a period where flavors are mellowing. This is a great time to add fruit in any form. While the yeast will still ferment the added sugars, it does so slower and less aggressively, leaving more of the fruit flavor behind. Adding fruit in secondary is a very common option for cider makers.
Add After Killing Yeast
The last option is to add the fruit after stabilizing the hard cider by killing the yeast (either with Campden + Sorbate or cold crashing). Adding the fruit at this point needs to be in liquid form (juice or concentrate). The added sugar will not ferment, so this option results in a much stronger fruit flavor, and that added sugar makes the hard cider sweeter as well.
Sanitizing the Fruit
Most people agree that fresh fruit needs to be sanitized prior to using (just as fresh pressed hard cider does). There are two common approaches. Both involve starting by boiling a small amount of water and submerging the fruit. Then either:
- Crush one campden tablet for every gallon of juice, mix in and wait 24 hours.
- Heat the mixture to 140 degrees and hold for 20 minutes. Some people don’t like this approach as it can ‘set the pectin’, resulting in a hazy cider.