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Food & Drink

All jacked up

Making 80-proof applejack at home is cheap, fast and easy

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There's a weird social stigma attached to people who make their own alcohol. Whenever someone unfamiliar with the process is handed a glass of homemade booze, they always have a look in their eye like they're expecting the maker to proudly proclaim, "I done made it with my own vomit!"

But making your own booze is fun, pretty easy and doesn't even have to involve buying a shitload of materials. Plus: alcohol! – like you need any more of a reason. One of the easiest liquors to make (not to mention just about the only one that's legal to make in your home) is applejack. Made from hard apple cider, applejack is one of the oldest liquors produced in the United States, and, much like the 12-pack on moving day, it was a form of currency in Colonial days. Nowadays, it's made using modern distilling techniques, but let's do it like our forefathers did (except without the slavery and shooting at redcoats) and use the nice, legal, freeze-distilling technique.

What you'll need:
2 gallons organic apple juice (with no preservatives)
2.5-gallon rectangular jug of water
two 1-gallon jugs of water
quart-sized Mason jar
bleach or other sanitizing agent
brewer's yeast

The first thing you need to do to make applejack is to make hard apple cider. This is pretty simple, since apple juice is comprised mostly of simple sugars, meaning it ferments quickly. The important distinction when choosing your juice is to select one free of preservatives. Preservatives do a good job of preventing anything from living in the juice (no shit, right?), and yeast need to live in order to create our end product.

Now you need to find something to ferment it in. A cost-effective solution is a rectangular 2.5-gallon jug of water with a spigot on the bottom, like the ones you can get at any grocery store. Empty the water out and cut a good-sized hole in the top through which you can pour your juice.

But before you pour, sanitize. Sanitation is key to any good fermentation. If you don't sanitize, you run the risk of cider that smells like a Band-Aid, or, worse, has mold growing on the bottom of it. One tablespoon of bleach to one gallon of water is a high enough concentration to kill any errant creepy-crawlies (be sure to rinse with plain water after each application). Keep some of the bleach-water mix aside to sanitize anything else that will come into contact with the juice.

Pour the juice into the jug, then add the dry brewer's ale yeast. Don't go all cheap and use bread yeast or something – brewer's yeast has alcohol tolerance, meaning it won't shrivel up and die just when the cider's getting good. Good local sources: Hearts Homebrew (6190 Edgewater Drive; heartshomebrew.com) or the Sanford Homebrew Shop (111 Magnolia Ave., Sanford; magnoliasquaremarket.com). Cover the top opening with a generous amount of sanitized foil (to keep contaminants from getting in, while allowing carbon dioxide to get out), and put the jug someplace cool and dark for two weeks. The cool, dark spot is key because A) heat and light totally fuck with yeast, and B) it'll be out of sight and therefore not inflaming your impatience.

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