Apple Jack

This drink rose to popularity in colonial times where it was made in big vats outside. Once fermentation was complete, and the weather was cold enough, the water in the wine was frozen then scraped off leaving the alcohol behind. Alcohol wont freeze when it gets to 80 proof. So technically you can create a “wine” that is just as strong as your favorite vodka or whiskey without having to distill it.

It tastes sort of like a brandy. Mine usually turns out with a very strong apple flavor, sweet, and very boozy. Here’s how I make it!

Makes about a 5 gallon batch.

  • 1 package Champagne yeast
  • 4 Gallons of apple cider without preservatives (Ascorbic Acid is ok) or enough apples to produce the same amount of fresh cider. (50 – 70 pounds of fresh apples for 4 gallons cider)
  • 8 pounds white sugar
  • 10 pounds brown sugar
  • 1 20 oz container raisins

Equipment you will need:

1 5+ gallon primary fermenting bucket

1 5 gallon secondary fermenter

drilled bung

air lock (some people use balloons with pin hole in top)

cheese cloth or a shit ton of coffee filters

food thermometer

cut up white t shirt or towel

something long to stir with

Sanitize all equipment. If you’re using fresh apples, wash, then juice or press them. I always cook the cider to about 180 degrees to kill any bad bacteria. If you are using already made cider pour it into the biggest pot you have that can fit on the stove. If you cannot fit the whole 4 gallons of cider into it no biggie. You just need enough cider so you can mix in the sugar until it’s dissolved. With fresh apple cider it will already be warm enough to dissolve the sugar. If using ready made cider, heat it up slowly (same with fresh, you don’t want to burn the sugar), and stir until all the sugar is dissolved and the fluid has become clear.

Allow the sweetened cider to cool until it is under 100° F. If it’s above that temp. it will kill the yeast. Target temp. I’ve found works best to get a really good fermentation going is around 90°. Once the temp. is right add the yeast (called pitching). Stir stir stir, omg stir. Not necessarily to mix it because the yeast can find it’s food just fine, but at this stage we want plenty of oxygen in the mix to make the yeast happy.

Cover the top of your primary fermenter (as shows above or when using a bucket a nice big towel will work). Stir your “mash” daily to introduce more oxygen. Do this for about a week. After that week cover primary fermenter with its lid with bung and airlock. Let it ferment for about another week or longer if the airlock is still bubbling.

Once primary fermentation is done, either siphon or pour (I usually just pour) your wine (wash/mash) into the secondary fermenter. When I pour I place a colander with cheese cloth in it to catch the large chuncks of fruit or in this case raisins, and dead yeast. I’ll stop pouring once it gets down to the bottom with all the sludgy stuff in it. If some of that gets in don’t worry, it will settle.

Let it remain still and air tight for as long as it takes. It may be another couple of weeks until fermentation has stopped. It may take a couple more months. You will know it’s done if you can no longer see any movement in your brew, the little line of bubbles on the top is gone, and the cap (fruit, raisins etc.) has settled to the bottom.

Go ahead and rack it again. This is the process of separating the wine from it’s sediment. Wait another month or so, more if needed if the sediment hasn’t all settled, then rack it again. I don’t use any fining agents or chemicals so mine may take a bit longer to finish than others. For my jack I will wait to concentrate it until I can see my hand through the back of the fermenter.

Once clear enough for your tastes, freeze concentrate it. I pour a gallon at a time into an empty gallon water jug, then place it (them) in my freezer and allow it to freeze as solid as possible. When frozen, uncap it, turn it over and allow the unfrozen jack to drain into another vessel. I use a half gallon wide mouth mason jar. Once the gallon only has ice in it (it will have very little color left in the ice) you are done. Bottle it up, let it sit for as long as possible because the flavor improves with age. OR you can try to freeze it again to increase the alcohol content. I don’t find this improves the taste and really makes it too strong.


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