"Succum ex Pomis Vinosissimum"
A Cyser Recipe
by Lord Richard of Woodenbridge

As the autumn air arrives from the north and the days wax short to herald the cold darkness of winter, so too arrives the season of the last harvest bestowing upon us in abundance the sweet toothsome apple and rich honey. What better time then to speak of cyser, a close relative of our precious mead married with the flavors and bouquet of the noble pome!

We must first not confuse the juice of the apple sometimes called cider and fermented apple juice known as hard cider with cyser, a most especial concoction from the juice of apples and honey, fermented to produce the “strong drink” (sicera - the Latin for “strong drink” adopted into English-cyser, ciser, siser, syther and cyder) spoken of in the Bible.

Thought to be first made in England in 1284, it was served centuries earlier at a Royal Banquet by Harold Godwinson. The Norse had used the apple in regions such as Normandy and the Channel Islands, the Celts in Western England, and the Slavs and Goths in Europe presenting several possible sources for cysers origins. Wherever it did originate, through the time of our culture it was known as very potent vintage, in taste as well as alcohol content.

"without sider and wyn and meeth men and wommen myght lyve full long." -Peacock, 1449

I do rarely make precise measure in my production of any meads, pyments, beers or cysers Each lot is inspired by the moment, experience and personal preference. I tend to see the making of fermented potables as an art and no two batches could nor should be identical. In home brewing it is most impossible to maintain the exact conditions from batch to batch, temperature, vitality of yeast, quality and flavor of honey, especially when purchased directly from a beekeeper. As with grapes, apples and all natural ingredients, growing conditions vary from year to year, and as a consequence so too will the ensuing product vary. This is the wondrous beauty of our world.

Nor do I ever use sulfites. Careful sanitary procedure and sterilization of all implements is absolutely critical, but are not difficult and well worth the extra effort to avoid using sulfites which, on occasion, cause adverse reactions in consumption and always adversely affects flavor in the tasting. Too, it should be noted that while we can boil a honey/water mixture one should never boil fruit juices as the fruit pectin will set and the ferment may not clarify. This will adversely affect the taste.

I offer this recipe* and following the techniques used in the making of mead should bearforth a fine drink.

Using the ingredients following follow the usual procedures For five gallons:

Apple juice 4.75 gals.
Honey 7 lbs.
yeast nutrient 5 tsp.
Adequate wine yeast (usually one packet)
1/3 tsp sodium or potassium metabisulfite
acid blend to bring to between .4 and .5

Presently, I offer some of my techniques which until now have been kept guarded save for those in my household.

First, I double the measure of honey (to 15 Lbs) and reduce the amount of juice by one quart, maybe two.

Boiling the honey and water in meads seems to possess two qualities. One, the boiling procedure acts as a “pasteurization” eliminating any viable unwanted yeast and bacteria. Two, it assists in breaking down the sugars to a more readily processed form making it easier for the yeast during fermentation. An additional benefit during boiling is the ability to “skim” the other impurities such as wax, hive debris, and bee parts which may rise to the surface in foam. I always do this. In the making of Cyser, I reduce the amount of apple juice by a half gallon, replacing it with water so I may mix it with the honey for this pasteurization process. Any “spicing” can be done here, my additions in this area shall for now remain guarded. Cheap beer yeast is added to the boil. This eliminates the need for yeast nutrient as the fermenting yeast ( I prefer good champagne yeast) added later will be nourished upon the remains of the beer yeast. The addition of a goodly pinch of Irish moss during boiling helps the clarification. It should be removed prior to combining with the apple juice. This mixture must cool well below 160 degrees before it is added to the apple juice.

The use of acid blend is fine yet I prefer to add the juice of one lemon or lime to the apple juice. It is natural and imparts a hint of flavor to the product. Orange may be used but more juice is necessary as it is less acidic, lending perhaps too much flavor. I would rather suggest saving the addition of orange to a mead spiced with ginger! Count Bonniface has done this and it is magnificent!

During fermentation I keep all my brews in a relatively warm area (75ľ to 80ľ) as this expedites the process. Some say a slow ferment is best, I know not, I am quite impatient and always have gotten delicious results in three months or less. During fermentation I speak well to it and sometimes play the recorder or lute (guitar) and never put a batch up on a new moon. Once fermentation is complete I move it to a cool place to clear.

Should you put up a cyser and have any questions feel free to contact me and I would be well pleased to partake the fruits of your labor and toast the Autumn harvests!

* This recipe is found in Wassail! In Mazers of Mead by Lt. Colonel Robert Gayre with the last five chapters devoted to brewing a variety of “meads” by Charlie Papazian of the American Homebrewers Association