Dolgo Crab Apple Cider

Last month, a few of us went to the Fideldy Apple Orchard south of Grand Rapids and picked / pressed several types of apples for making cider.  The Fideldy’s have a really nice screw drive press (powered by hand) that made the job easy and entertaining.

box of dolgo applesThe dolgo crab apples were the most intriguing.  These are the little buggers that we ate as kids, and they are quite firm, juicy and tart.  There was only one of these trees at the orchard, and we picked it bare.  It is tough to get juice from them,but at the orchard, the press had a grinder/pulper to make that job easier.  We pressed about 3 gallons of the rosy clear nectar of the gods.

A week later, I found another tree in town loaded with the same kind of crabs that we could harvest.  We collected about 150 pounds, but were driven away by a nasty storm before we could complete the job.  Brewer Steve F. has a wine press, so we took our apples home and froze them.  When thawed, they get really soft, and it is easy to smash them up and get them ready for pressing.

Steve B. pulping apples

We got together on a cool, sunny, breezy Sunday afternoon (October 16th) at Steve’s place in the country, and set about turning the little dolgo apples into juice.  Steve B, Borealbrewers’ master brewer, is pictured here pulping the dolgo apples in a stainless steel kettle.  (Pulping post courtesy of Steve F.).

pulped dolgo crab apples ready for the pressThe freeze / thaw process really made them tender, so the pulping process was quite easy.  However, it was a bit time consuming as we had to actually aim at them when smashing with the wooden post.  Good therapy!  Of course we had some homebrew and craft brew to lubricate our minds and muscles.

Steve F's press in action

Steve’s press is simple, elegant and easy to use.  The wooden basket is just the right size for the amount of apples we were pressing.  We pressed about a quart of mashed apples at a time, separating them by wooden disks.  The “pressing” part is done using a 1-ton hydraulic floor jack.  Like I said, pretty simple, quite effective, and lots of fun.

apple juice flowing from the press
Ahhh! The fruits of our labor. We collected 4 1/2 gallons.

5 thoughts on “Dolgo Crab Apple Cider

  1. Dolgos for cider! I did the exact same thing this year. Juiced them in my juicer (cut the seeds out prior to that), and found the straight juice so caustic and sour that I blended it down with an equal proportion of preservative-free sweet apple juice. Fermented that and am just having a taste of it now. It’s good, but still rather sour. I’d say Dolgos, if used for cider, should make up less than a quarter of your blend. Then you can add sweeter apples and you’ll still end up with a pleasant, zingy cider – just not a mouthpuckering one.

  2. Well, I did get out to pick some of the Dolgos in the park this year. Got about a full 20L of pomace (I don’t have any room in the freezer, so I just food processed them). Lacking a press, I split this between 3 buckets and topped up with frozen concentrated apple juice (1.045ish, though I suspect the Dolgos are higher, so the actual gravity may be higher). After a week I’ll strain out the pomace and add more concentrated apple juice to up the ABV…
    Will try to update my blog about this!
    A fellow homebrewer nearby also did this method, but two weeks ago, so I have sampled his results. Very dry and sour – the fruit was probably not fully ripe yet…

  3. We fermented the Dolgo juice straight up after treating with some campden tablets. It was really tart when we first pulped it, and ended up even more so when finished. We tried a couple different yeast varieties and found that they affected the dryness of the finish.

    I used a champagne yeast, and it was really dry. Most folks find it too tart to drink straight, so I mix it with a fruit juice of choice. (I store my 4 gallons in a corny keg, so it’s easy to make a variety of blends.) I actually like the taste unmixed, but must admit that it takes a few sips to get past the pucker factor.

    I hope you get a chance to try some dolgos next year.

  4. How did you use the crab apple juice? Was it blended with regular cider, or fermented straight?
    How did it turn out?
    I was thinking of picking some Dolgo’s in a park near me, but didn’t get around to it in time… Next year.
    Last year I picked some other crabapples in another park (very small – 3/8″, and hard). After sitting in a bucket overnight (no frost), they turned into mush and I was able to mash them into a pulp easily with an immersion blender. I added this pulp to a rather insipid Triple I had in secondary – turned out amazing (though next time I would sulfite or pasteurize the apple pulp first – wild yeasts took over).

    1. We added pectic enzyme and champagne yeast, then kegged it when the secondary ferment was done. Beautiful pink color, and quite tart. Our intent was to compare the five different ciders we made this year, then sweeten them as needed. We have not yet decided if we’ll stabilize them with potassium metabisulfite and add regular sugar, or just add lactose.

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