The Big Book of Cidermaking

Expert Techniques for Fermenting and Flavoring Your Favorite Hard Cider


By Christopher Shockey

By Kirsten K. Shockey

Foreword by Ben Watson

Formats and Prices




$37.99 CAD



  1. Trade Paperback $29.99 $37.99 CAD
  2. ebook $14.99 $19.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around September 1, 2020. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Best-selling authors and acclaimed fermentation teachers Christopher Shockey and Kirsten K. Shockey turn their expertise to the world of fermented beverages in the most comprehensive guide to home cidermaking available. With expert advice and clear, step-by-step instructions, The Big Book of Cidermaking equips readers with the skills they need to make the cider they want: sweet, dry, fruity, farmhouse-style, hopped, barrel-aged, or fortified. The Shockeys’ years of experience cultivating an orchard and their experiments in producing their own ciders have led them to a master formula for cidermaking success, whether starting with apples fresh from the tree or working with store-bought juice. They explore in-depth the different phases of fermentation and the entire spectrum of complex flavor and style possibilities, with cider recipes ranging from cornelian cherry to ginger, and styles including New England, Spanish, and late-season ciders. For those invested in making use of every part of the apple, there’s even a recipe for vinegar made from the skins and cores leftover after pressing. This thorough, thoughtful handbook is an empowering guide for every cidermaker, from the beginner seeking foundational techniques and tips to the intermediate cider crafter who wants to expand their skills.


Dedicated to our kids and the beautiful people they share their lives with now. So much of this book is about the place where you grew up, and we hope that you will always call it home.

What if you could help heal our environment in a small way, improve your health, and have fun through the drink?



The Ark of Apples

Cider: A Sustainably Made, Halthy-ish Adut Beverage

Part One: Making Cider

Chapter 1: Choose Your Cidermaking Adventure

Chapter 2: Equipment Overview

Chapter 3: The Master Process

Part Two: Recipes: Let the Fermentation Begin

Chapter 4: Wild Ciders

Chapter 5: Cultivated Ciders

Chapter 6: Crafting Cider with Wild Botanical Yeasts

Chapter 7: Infused Ciders

Chapter 8: Iced, Wined, and Spirited Ciders

Chapter 9: Drinking Cider


Appendix 1: Troubleshooting

Appendix 2: Apple Varieties

Appendix 3: Grow a Little Pippin




Metric Conversion Chart


Recipes Listing


Discover the World of Fermentation with more books by the Shockeys

Share Your Experience!


My love affair with cider began way back in the late 1980s, when I first met Terry and Judith Maloney, who owned a little business in western Massachusetts called West County Winery. Today their son, Field, carries on the tradition at what has become West County Cider.

The Maloneys were among the first key players in what's come to be known as the cider renaissance in the United States. But in truth, in those early years of the revival, there were very few people making cider commercially — good, bad, or indifferent — and though there were plenty of indications that cider was growing in popularity, for years this growth was quite organic and slow, almost glacial in fact, and not always easy. Another pioneering cidermaker once told me that in the beginning he'd practically had to kneel on people's chests and pour his product down their throats. An exaggeration, to be sure, but the fact remains that Americans are still relearning the joys of cider, which in earlier times was this country's foundational beverage.

The thing that struck me about cider back in the 1980s and '90s was how convivial and genuine the people who made it were. The culture was different from that of high-end wines, and even friendlier than that of craft beer, which was booming at the time. There was nothing standoffish or proprietary about cider producers, at least not the ones who were growing and fermenting their own fruit and experimenting with old (and new) apple varieties to evaluate their relative worth. You could ask these people which apples they were using and see exactly how they made their cider, and no one was afraid you'd steal their trade secrets (as if they held the recipe for Coca-Cola or Kentucky Fried Chicken).

That's because these people understood that cider at its highest and best expression doesn't use a recipe, but a process. Also, they knew that all cider is local. By that I mean, even if I were to ferment the same juice from the same apples another cidermaker had used, I wouldn't end up with exactly the same cider. That's because, in addition to terroir (the well-known concept of the influence of such factors as climate, geography, and soils on fruit), a distinctive human element is also involved, one that contributes either a little or a lot to a particular cider. Vive la difference.

To prove this point, I once led a taste workshop for a group of 60 or 70 people where we tasted three single-variety ciders made by three different cideries from the famous Kingston Black apple. In fact, the apples used all came from the same orchard in western New Hampshire, so the terroir should have been the same. Yet each of these ciders was quite distinctive — all very well made and delightful, but all significantly different from one another.

Today I still find the same spirit of generosity and collegiality among cidermakers, both amateurs and pros. And both the quality and diversity of ciders are exponentially greater these days. Cidermakers are creating rosé cider made from red-fleshed apples, sour ciders, and all manner of specialty ciders that feature adjuncts or special ingredients — not just traditional barrel aging in oak or throwing some raisins into a New England–style cider.

Christopher and Kirsten Shockey have captured in this book all of the passion and joie de vivre that attracted me to cider so many years ago. In a friendly, straightforward manner, they describe the whole process of making cider on a variety of scales and present an impressive palette of options for neophytes, hobbyists, and even more experienced cidermakers. Their long experience with fermentation, in all its forms, provides a sound basis for success your first time out, and every time. And the information they give on making yeast cultures from foraged fruits and flowers puts an exciting and innovative local spin on this unique beverage — one that's had a proud yet humble pedigree and promises to have an even brighter future.

Ben Watson, author of Cider, Hard and Sweet

The Ark of Apples

This book, and our love affair with apples and cider, started in 1998 — the year we moved onto our smallholding and watched the dormant centenarian apple trees introduce themselves. First came the pink swelling blossom buds, next the riot of white blossoms resplendent and humming with pollinators, then green leaves offering cool summer shade as the small fruits grew into the apples. We soon identified most of them — a Rome variety of some sort, something like a Granny Smith, a Golden Delicious, a Cox's Orange Pippin, a few towering Gravensteins, and one that was grafted to both Gravenstein and Red Delicious. We were overwhelmed by the quantity: boxes and baskets of apples were stacked along the wall in our small kitchen. Apples seemed to tumble every which way as we tried to make them into sauce, dried rings, steamed juice, pies, crisps, and dumplings. By the next year we had a cider press, and a few years later we were captivated by cider. Surrounded by vineyards, we thought we would be the first cider house in our area. As it turned out, sauerkraut got in the way, but that is another story.

Eager to learn as much as we could about growing apples for cider, we visited Nick Botner, described both as a hobby orchardist and a serious world-renowned botanical collector, at his farm in Yoncalla, Oregon, 2 hours north of our farm. We arrived, three of our four children in tow, one early November day, nearly 15 years ago. "Come into my farmhouse, we'll talk," Nick said as he invited the five of us in. His wife, Carla, sat us down to coffee and applesauce.

A good cider apple contributes to one or more of four components: color, flavor, body, or bouquet.

"What kind of apples do you recommend for hard cider?" Christopher ventured. We were sitting there gazing at him like initiates around a sage, waiting for the meaning of life. Or, at least the meaning of apples.

"There are a lot of great apples for cider," Nick said, and we both stared, pen in hand, waiting to scribble down the varieties that we'd never heard of, yet hoped to plant. He told us a good cider apple contributes to one or more of four components: color, flavor, body, or bouquet. He didn't drop any variety names though.

"Do you have the Redstreak?" Christopher asked hopefully. During the eighteenth century, this apple was believed to be the finest cider apple in England. At the time, cider made from the Redstreak commanded the highest prices. Its popularity had diminished by the end of the century and it's believed that viruses may have killed the remaining trees. Now the apple is rare, even thought to be extinct, as breeders are unsure if the claimed Redstreaks are indeed the Redstreaks.

"Yes, I believe I do," Nick said. "Would you like to see the orchard?"

The two of us nearly jumped out of our seats. We all put our rubber boots back on and traipsed through wet fall leaves down the knoll to his orchard. This was where Nick started gathering apple varieties in 1976 simply by trading twigs with other apple growers from all over the world, like pen pals who shared pieces of scion wood instead of stories.

Nick started gathering apple varieties in 1976 simply by trading twigs with other apple growers from all over the world, like pen pals who shared pieces of scion wood instead of stories.

Scion wood is a small dormant stick of a tree's new growth that can be grafted onto a rootstock of another apple tree to start a clone of the scion variety. This can happen over and over again. The buds carry the plant's knowledge — the genes needed for the desired variety, and when they "wake up" they grow upright, becoming the trunk of the new tree.

Nick and his worldwide network have protected and preserved apple varieties that would have otherwise died out. To put this into context, industrialized apple growing is like putting biodiversity through a funnel. There are about 7,500 named apple varieties in the world, yet in the United States only about 100 varieties are grown commercially. Apple seeds don't reproduce the same fruit as the apple that parented them; you never know what you will get. Each apple has between 5 and 12 seeds, and each of those seeds will grow into a different variety of tree. Think of all the apples from a single tree and you understand how an apple tree is a diversity-generating wonder. In the wild apple forests of Kazakhstan, no two varieties are the same, and many are only edible for birds. Through the centuries, humans have selected and cloned for flavor, grafting scion wood from the preferred variety onto rootstocks. Varietals are based on keeping a clone of the original tasty tree going — for centuries. And here lies the problem of the questionable Redstreak.

"Some of the ugliest ones taste the best," Nick told us.

Nick's orchard was then a world-class collection of humble trees holding over four thousand varieties of Malus domestica — the apple. Some varieties were so rare they were thought to be near extinction, and perhaps the only living clones of those varieties were in his orchard.

On that cool and gray November day, most of the trees were nearly bare of leaves, but they still held orbs of yellow, gold, green, russet, purple, almost white, and every hue of red imaginable. Some were huge — like garish Christmas ornaments hanging on limbs that bent under the weight — and there were tiny crabapples that hung in ruby red clusters like a loaded cherry tree. Carpets of interwoven wet leaves and fallen apples in all stages — from fresh to rotten — lay under trees, making compost to nourish the soil, the microbes, and the worms.

"Just pick anything and try it," Nick told us as he closed a gate behind us. "Some of the ugliest ones taste the best."

The first one Kirsten picked was a sensual crimson that drew us in like Snow White's poison apple. "What kind is this?" She asked as she bit into the crisp, cold flesh.

Nick carried a worn, thick three-ring binder, which held the key to the whole orchard; each row was numbered and cataloged on those loose-leaf typed pages. He opened it and thumbed through the pages.

"Scarlett O'Hara," he said. Christopher jotted it down in his Moleskine notebook. Nick took a bite and tossed it on the ground. He told us there were so many out there that he couldn't possibly eat them all, but he said, "I take a taste of every one, every year."

We'd hardly finished the Scarlett O'Hara when we saw an all-white apple with almost translucent skin, which we soon learned was a White Pippin. It was bitter. Nick led us to a Spice Russet that was not particularly attractive — a dull gold with the rough rustlike skin that names these types of apples. Well named, this apple had a surprising taste of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Early the following spring, we ordered mostly standard rootstock and grafting tools. We visited Nick again to pick up 39 varieties of apple scion wood that we grafted onto one hundred roots. Thirteen years later, about half of the spindly tall trees have survived our steep hillside growing conditions, marginal soil, varying degrees of maintenance, and (after our dog, head of orchard security, died) marauding deer; none of the original Redstreaks made it.

We have not been back to see Nick. In the meantime, Christopher trained with internationally recognized cider authority and educator Peter Mitchell. Children grew. Vegetables, legumes, and grains filled the intervening years, but we always made cider in fall. As we write, Nick is in his nineties and his "ark of apples" orchard is for sale, his legacy destined for new hands.

In 2016, Kirsten was talking to a neighbor who mentioned that he was grafting apple trees. A group of local folks had gone to collect hundreds of varieties in scion wood from Nick's orchard. By then many of the trees had a fungal disease, anthracnose, where infected trees develop dark, water-soaked lesions on stems, leaves, or fruit — common in the moist spring conditions of western Oregon. The group's mission was to find trees that had resisted the attack. The Redstreak was one of them. A few days later, Kirsten sat in the neighbor's greenhouse on a cool, rainy day, cutting twigs and lining up the cambium tissue.

Today there are six Redstreaks and about three dozen other varieties, including wild apples found on the edges of the forest and some that we found on an old mining claim, grafted on semidwarf rootstock in 1-gallon black nursery pots and waiting to be planted in small orchard blocks scattered on our hillsides. Our few dozen apple varieties aren't even 1 percent of what Nick managed for decades by himself and at a much later age, and yet there are times —when we are behind in spring pruning or summer watering or fall harvesting — that it all seems a bit overwhelming to the two of us. In late fall when our will has been parched by the prickly, hot, dry, and now often smoky days of forests of the American West, we wonder if we still have it in us. Then rain settles the sharp edges of the land and the fear of fire, soft green rises through the brown, and we fall in love again. Winter is a time when the farm asks little of us, giving time back to reflect. The question "Is it worth it?" starts to fade deeper into the mist that winds through trees and ridges beyond, and we begin to scheme about things we could plant — raspberries, maybe wine grapes, or grafting more of our favorite wild bittersweet crabapple, adding more pears for perry, or growing out pippins from the seeds of our apples to see what they become.

Cider: A Sustainably Made, Healthy-ish Adult Beverage

What if you could help heal our environment in a small way, improve your health, and have fun through the drink? The last one is pretty familiar to everyone, but we don't usually think of drinking as a way to better health or a greener planet. It usually isn't. But in the case of fermented apple cider, it can be all three. It's a sustainable way to improve your health and have fun doing it. To get to that level, you will have to do one more thing: move from being a consumer to becoming a maker.


Most of us have heard the stories about our colonial forefathers in America who regularly drank local hard cider because it was safe to drink, unlike the water. Even the little ones enjoyed a drink called ciderkin made from the pomace left from apple pressings and the aforementioned unsafe water, which was rendered safe by fermentation. Thankfully most of us have access to clean water these days, but we have plenty of other risks to our health that hard cider can address in a small way. As we talked to cidermakers from around the world, we kept hearing the same thing: "real cider is food."

The vitamins in the fruits used to make cider don't degrade in the fermentation process, and in some cases are enhanced by fermentation. We also get the benefits of the apple's high antioxidants and polyphenols, both of which can help prevent several noncommunicable diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Hard cider is naturally low in sodium and gluten-free too — at least it is supposed to be (see box below). Homemade ciders, especially those that are wild fermented, often have lower alcohol levels.

Phytochemicals. These are a group of chemicals found in plants that benefit our health, such as carotenoids, flavonoids, isoflavonoids, and phenolic acid. One of the most important benefits of phytochemicals for us are their antioxidative characteristics. In the United States, apples make up a person's largest source of phenolics.1 The highest concentrations of phytochemicals are in the apples' peels, which we suppose is yet another reason not to make cider with peeled apples. Phytochemical concentrations vary by varietals, with the top three being Fuji, Red Delicious, and Gala, respectively.2

Probiotics. You may have spotted labels on commercial ciders that say "contains probiotics." By most definitions, probiotics are microorganisms that are not only nonpathogenic to humans but have been shown to be beneficial in some way — usually by improving the function of our gastrointestinal tract. A single apple has over 100,000 different microbes,3 and 90 percent of those are in the core of the apple, which usually goes uneaten but is definitely part of the cider. Included in these microorganisms are lactic acid bacteria (LAB), which are present from apple to finished cider — as long as they aren't killed by the cidermaker. If you want a probiotic cider, you can't apply sulfur dioxide (SO2) and you can't pasteurize your finished cider, which is probably why it's so rare to see a cider advertising its probiotic content. (That and the fact it represents an additional cost in sending samples to the lab for active colony counts.) When you make your own cider, you can control all these aspects and can produce a probiotic-rich cider.

Not-so-Healthy Commercial Ingredients

There is a lot of wiggle room in the definition of "cider," so larger commercial or corporate varieties can include a lot of different and unexpected things, which can go a long way toward negating some of the healthier aspects of hard cider. Commercial cidermakers can, for example, use added sugars, including corn syrups, which can drive up the sugar to 12 to 24 grams (3 to 4 teaspoons) or more per bottle. Most of these ciders utilize sulfites, which many people react to, at differing levels of concentration. They can be made from cheap imported apple juice concentrate from Asia. Finally, flavorings and colorings — which can include a wide variety of things — are allowed. So, cheap commercial ciders aren't going to make you healthier and in fact, they are probably taking you the other way. You can change that by making your own cider or by finding a local cidermaker that is making the appropriate decisions to create a healthy product.


There is nothing sustainable about buying bottles of cider if they are made thousands of miles away, shipped, and refrigerated until you feel like picking up a six-pack or a lovely bottle for a special occasion, though it's a far cry from the worst thing you can do to the planet. While you might be supporting a great small-scale cidermaker who is growing apples in a sustainable way and paying staff a living wage, transportation and refrigeration pretty quickly negate the good things. If that cidermaker is local and happy to refill your growler, or they supply your local growler shop, then you are golden. Most of us aren't that lucky, and that means we need to look at ways to get our healthy cider sustainably. Cider is a particularly sustainable beverage to make because it is produced from perennial tree crops that are easy to grow and harvest, and the fermentation process itself doesn't require any large machinery or even electricity (at least at the home or small farm level).


On Sale
Sep 1, 2020
Page Count
336 pages

Christopher Shockey

Christopher Shockey

About the Author

Christopher Shockey and Kirsten K. Shockey are the coauthors of Miso, Tempeh, Natto & Other Tasty FermentsFiery Ferments, and the best-selling Fermented Vegetables. Christopher has years of experience producing ciders from their mountain homestead orchard and is a trained cider maker. The Shockeys got their start fermenting foods more than twenty years ago on their 40-acre hillside smallholding, which grew into their organic food company. When they realized their passion was for the process, they chose to focus on teaching fermentation arts to others. They teach worldwide and host workshops on their homestead in southern Oregon.

Learn more about this author

Kirsten K. Shockey

Kirsten K. Shockey

About the Author

Kirsten K. Shockey is the author of Homebrewed Vinegar and the coauthor, with her husband, Christopher Shockey, of The Big Book of CidermakingMiso, Tempeh, Natto & Other Tasty Ferments, Fiery Ferments, and the best-selling Fermented Vegetables. She is a co-founder of The Fermentation School, a women-owned and women-led benefits corporation supporting the voices of independent educators to empower learning and build culture. The Shockeys lead experiential workshops worldwide and online helping people to make, enjoy and connect with their food through fermentation. They live on a 40-acre hillside homestead on unceded Dakubedete territory in the mountains of southern Oregon. 

Learn more about this author