Where to Start: Home Brewed Cider

Where to Start1

Articles | May 25, 2016 | By

*This article was written by Jared Kovacs, www.thehesitantchef.com

In my last post I wanted to inspire as many people to start home brewing as I possibly could. There are several reasons for this:

  1. It’s fun
  2. It’s SATISFYING (nothing like drinking one of your own handcrafted drinks) and
  3. You inevitably gain a new appreciation for beer, cider, and wine.

Sure, it can be frustrating from time to time – especially when a brew doesn’t turn out – but this hobby is as much about learning as it is about enjoying a beverage. I’m often asked by people who are looking to start, “What brew should I start with and what equipment do I need to brew it?” Let’s jump in and I’ll attempt to answer without being long-winded.

What Brew Should I start with?

Good question! I’m glad you asked. Honestly, this isn’t as easy to answer because it ultimately depends on your personal preferences. You should be asking yourself “What do I like to drink?” and allow that question to guide you. My brewing interests are broad, so I knew that beer, hard ciders, and mead (my first batch isn’t even done yet) were something I wanted try. However, in the beginning, all I wanted to make was beer because that’s what I saw every other home brewer doing. And, if I’m honest, my pretentious ways wanted to jump on the sophisticated craft beer bandwagon as quickly as possible. I jumped in with both feet and failed miserably. The ratio of successful brews to unsuccessful ones was something like 3:1 – pretty disheartening and expensive for a newbie! Which is why when I’m asked the question, “Where should I start?” I immediately answer: cider.

Right around the time I was miserably failing at home brewing I had some friends who’d begun to make cider and informed me on how easy it was. By the sound of it, it was exactly what I needed to do in order to get some confidence back. I was right, it turned out great – and after a few batches of cider, I had the courage to try making beer again. Now, this may sound like some sort of male-ego-bravado-stroking kind of thing, but it isn’t. Gaining confidence as a brewer is essential. Trust me – having some successful home-brews under your belt is good for your young home brewing soul. Apart from giving you confidence, brewing cider offers a lot of benefits to new brewers. First, it teaches you proper brewing techniques like cleaning and sanitizing. The majority of my early mistakes came down to me being lazy in this area. Of course you can learn proper cleaning and sanitization habits starting with beer but for whatever reason I found it easier to learn with ciders. Second, brewing cider is easy, cheap, and tasty. The ingredient list can literally be 2 ingredients, apple juice and yeast. Oh and that can cost you as little as $25.00 for a 5 gallon batch. Worth it? Yeah, I think so! Third, brewing cider allows you to collect all the essential equipment you need to move onto more difficult brews.

What Equipment Do I Need?  

The nice thing about brewing cider is that you only need the essentials to do it. No giant brew pots, mash tuns, or wort chillers. Here’s a list of what I consider to be the crucial pieces. The nice thing about these is that they are all 100% transferable to other beverages you might be interested in brewing.

  • Carboys and Airlocks. No matter what you are brewing, you need a container to ferment your liquid in. Traditionally home brewers have used 5 gallon glass carboys, but many have begun switching to plastic carboys and pails. This is good news for those of you who are starting out. kijiji.ca and craigslist.com is full of people looking to sell off their old carboys for cheap. I personally use glass carboys and like them. Except for that one time that a full batch of 6 month oak aged apple wine slipped out of my hands and shattered all over my basement floor. Lesson learned – dry your damn hands before trying to transport heavy ass wine! Come on, Jared! Sigh. I bought all of mine for $15.00 a piece.
  • Auto Siphon and Large Funnel. These are worth their weight in gold. It’s a good thing too, because they’re super light. Getting large amounts of liquid to and from vessels can be difficult, but these make it so easy! They are the best. I use them, and you’ll be glad to have them. You can expect to spend $10.00-$20.00 each. Oh, and don’t forget the tubing. 
  • Bottles, Bottling Bucket, Bottling Wand. Once your cider is finished fermenting, your going to need a way to store it. You’ll need 40-50 bottles for a 5 gallon batch. Again, look on Kijiji or craigslist to see if anyone is selling flip top bottles. They’re reusable, cheap, and can usually acquire them for a $1.00 a piece. If you are looking to buy new, you’ll be looking at $2.50-$3.50 a bottle. Bottling buckets and bottling wand are going to cost you about $30.00.  
  • Cleaning Equipment. Last and most certainly not least, you need to be able to clean all of your equipment. This is for sure the most important step in all of the brewing process. Without proper cleaning and sanitation you’ll end up with nasty tasting liquids. Do not cheap out in this area, buy the best of the best! You’ll be happy you did. You’ll need high quality cleaner and no rinse sanitizer, bottle rinser, bottle brush and carboy brush. Put them to good use. You’ll spend about $60.00-$70.00 to get what you need.

So there you have it. If you want a basic yet simple recipe to try, I recommend my Raspberry Cider I made last year. I loved it and I think you might as well! Have fun Brewing everyone!


Jared Kovacs Circle

Jared Kovacs is the owner + content producer at www.thehesitantchef.com

For more, check out the Contributors Page.

Charred Scallion and Lemon Compound Butter

Charred Scallion and Lemon Butter 3

Charred Scallion and Lemon Compound ButterOh look! I burned stuff!

Seriously though, I was suppose to.

Who doesn’t lovelovelove flavored compound butters? If you don’t, it’s likely because you’ve yet to try any. And that’s okay – my first time wasn’t that long ago.

The first time I buttered my bread with a compound butter was late 2015 – on my honeymoon at Disney, in fact. (What better place to discover something than the happiest place on earth?) It seemed every restaurant had their own compound butter to serve with their pre-meal basket of fancy breads. The ones that seem to stick out the most were the lavender, and the maple and sea salt.

Though “compound butter” may sound fancy, it’s very easy to make at home. Almost too easy. (I may have had a little ‘compound butter fever’ over the weekend and we may have a few months worth of fancy flavored butters in our refrigerator…)

I adapted this particular recipe from Bon Appétit Magazine. If you follow me on Snapchat, you would have likely caught my wonderfully awkward video on charring scallions. Smoking out our kitchen was inevitable – but totally worth it. I swapped the lime for lemon in this recipe and GUYS – it’s so bright and so fresh.

Would recommend.

I’m planning a feature on compound butters for meats and veggies – I just have to run them through some more kitchen testing! Be excited. Be very excited.

But in the meantime, I give you this.

Charred Scallion and Lemon Compound Butter 2


Quick Sesame Shrimp Ramen Stir-Fry

Quick Sesame Shrimp Ramen Stir-Fry 4

Quick Sesame Shrimp Ramen Stir-fryThis Quick Sesame Shrimp Ramen Stir-fry could make for a very happy ‘Stir-Friday‘.

There is a large collection of stir-fry recipes out there taking pride in being “take-out level”. Although this is definitely something to be excited about, I’m going to be completely honest and say that I’m content with the fact that this stir-fry does not qualify as “take-out level”.

Now don’t get me wrong – I love me some good Westernized Chinese delivery. Nothing goes better with jogging pants and a lazy night than that. But sometimes I want a super quick and easy stir-fry that doesn’t make me feel like I’m 5 months pregnant with a food baby, you know? Sometimes I want to taste the shrimp in it’s shrimpy-ness; I want to taste the broccoli! That can be a challenge when everything is tossed and coated in gloopy sweet and sour sauces.

Quick Sesame Shrimp Ramen Stir-fry 2In this dish, everything is identifiable. The tender shrimp, crunchy broccolini, egg, and sweet carrots are tossed in a light sesame and chili garlic blend, then topped with tangy scallions and fresh sprouts.

Super de-lish, and mucho satisfactory! It’s also ready in 30 minutes or less.

So, what’s the deal for this stir-friday? Take-out, or this bad boy?

Quick Sesame Shrimp Ramen Stir-Fry
Serves 2
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
  1. 2 packages of instant Ramen, seasoning discarded
  2. 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons sesame oil, divided
  3. 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  4. 1 tablespoon sambal oelek (garlic chili sauce), + more to taste
  5. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  6. 1/2 cup julienned carrots
  7. 2.5 oz (approx. 2 handfulls) of broccolini or broccoli florets
  8. 8-10 oz uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined (I like using Argentine Red Shrimp)
  9. 2 eggs, beaten
  10. Kosher salt, to taste
  1. 1/2 cup scallions, thinly sliced
  2. 1/2 cup clover sprouts, bean sprouts, or pea shoots
  3. 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
  1. Cook the Ramen as per the packages directions. Drain, rinse, and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, fish sauce, and sambal oelek. Set aside.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat.
  4. When the skillet is hot, add 1 tablespoon sesame oil, garlic, carrots, and broccolini. Stir right away and care to not brown or burn the garlic. Sauté until the carrots and broccolini are tender enough to pierce with a fork, but still crisp (approx. 5 minutes).
  5. Add the shrimp and sauté until the shrimp is cooked through (approx. 2 minutes).
  6. With a spatula, move the vegetables and shrimps to the sides of the skillet and add the egg. Treat it like you would a scrambled egg, stirring it occasionally, until it breaks off into fluffy chunks (approx. 1-2 minutes).
  7. Toss the drained Ramen noodles into the skillet.
  8. Stir in the sesame sauce mixture and carefully toss until the noodles are coated and heated through. Taste, and if needed, add a bit more sesame oil and/or sambal oelek.
  9. Remove from heat, garnish with sliced scallions, sesame seeds, and sprouts.
  10. Serve warm.
Killing Thyme Eat-Zine http://killingthyme.net/

Easy Mushroom Stroganoff

Mushroom Stroganoff copy

Mushroom Stroganoff 2Mushroom lovers – hold on to your caps! (Heh – get it? Because mushroom caps…)

I’m about to blow your minds.

Or make you really hungry, at least.

As you know, I’m all about modifying meat-y classics so that I can enjoy pescetarian or veg spin-offs while still cooking for my omnivore husband. It’s how I manage to make two somewhat different dinners without losing my… marbles.

He loves chicken piccata, so I make a shrimp-y version for myself. When he’s hankering beef and broccoli stir-fry, I’ll replace the beef with tofu for myself. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy! 

With experience, it just gets easier and more enjoyable. (As enjoyable as cooking two different dinners can get, anyway.) And in case you’re wondering why I do make dinner for my husband most nights, it’s not because we are a gender role household by any means. It’s just that if I don’t, he’ll eat cereal or chips and I kind of want to nourish the man, you know?

No more #BachLife!


When it came to beef stroganoff, I decided that making a full-blown mushroom stroganoff was not only a simple solution, but a freakin’ delicious one.

Mushroom StroganoffI quartered some big and gorgeous cremini mushrooms and, low and behold, that was all the heartiness this dish needed.

I also substituted sour cream with plain Greek yogurt.

Don’t look at me that way – it totally worked. I wouldn’t suggest it if it wasn’t off-the-charts delicious, mmmkay?


Vegetarian Italian Meatballs

Vegetarian Italian Meatballs 6

Vegetarian Italian Meatballs 4I think this is the part where the Italian family I married into kicks me out. I know you’re not supposed to mess with their meatballs, but non-meat eaters should be able to enjoy them too, dammit.

So there.

Now I’ll be honest – when I woke up this morning with the plan to make these lentil cheatballs, I procrastinated like mad. I usually gingerly dive into my projects, but it’s known that lentil meatballs (much like black bean burgers) can be finicky. They are notorious for falling apart and that’s a sure slap in the face when trying to convince meat eaters that non-meat eaters can still enjoy burgers and meatballs and life.

BUT… I think these photos speak for themselves on how they turned out.

Vegetarian Italian Meatballs 1

Vegetarian Italian Meatballs 5

“Yeah, okay Dana. Those look all nice and fancy from the outside – but what do they look like on the inside?”

Oh! I’m glad you asked…

Vegetarian Italian Meatballs 2

Vegetarian Italian Meatballs 3

They are beautiful on the inside, too.

‘Cause that’s how I roll.

Okay, now I’ll explain a few important things.