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It is amazing how simple perry making is if you have a few simple pieces of equipment. Whether you like your perry flat or fizzy, dry or sweet, you really are able to turn out very good perry very easily. It'll also give you that sense of achievement in that you will know that all the ingredients came from your garden. Don't be put off if you've unsuccessfully tried brewing beer, perry is far simpler and is easier to get right first time. My first ever batch was delicious!
Perry is simple, it's more about the equipment than complex ingredients, but your mix of pears is important. If you find you have an uninteresting perry then try a different pear mix or add some tannin through crab apples or even a cup of tea!
Perry/Wine yeast (English perry) or Champagne yeast (European perry)
The next ingredients are optional and will depend on the sort of perry you want to make - still or sparkling, sweet or dry.
1/4 by weight crab apples or a small cup of tea (Optional - not necessary unless your first batch of perry tastes uninteresting)
Pectinase (Optional - Pectic enzyme if you want a clear perry, but this does not affect the taste)
Sucralose based sweetener (Optional - never usually required for perrys, but used for sweetening sparkling perrys)
Campden tablets (Optional - never usually required for perrys, but used for still sweeter perrys made without sweetener)
A little sugar for secondary fermentation or pear juice (Optional - for sparkling perrys only)
It's all about the equipment, there are guides on this site to make some of these elements very quickly and simply:
Demijohns (plastic or glass)
Water/air locks for fermentation (cheap)
2 x Buckets for collecting the pressed pear juice and scrat (mashed pears)
Bleach (for washing and steralising the equipment)
Bottles for bottling your perry, or a keg.
Then the following that you can build yourself (see other guides):
Scratter (for mashing the pears)
Cider press (for extracting the juice)
How to make the perry
This really couldn't be easier - so don't worry if you're not a cook!
BEFORE YOU START: It is very important to steralise and clean the equipment you use to make perry. The wooden scratter and press that I use does not need steralisation, nor (if you have one made of wood) should yours. However you must clean these very carefully after use and then again before using them (I use a hose!). The bucket for collecting juice, the demijohns and anything you'll be using to stir or touch the juice with needs to be properly sterilised. The cheapest way to do this is with a dilute solution of household bleach. Just put bleach in your basin and fill it with water - then use this to wash each of your items. Before thoroughly cleaning off the dilute bleach with lots of fresh water, you need to leave an item on one side for 10-15 mins so the bleach can kill all the bacteria. Do make sure that you thoroughly wash off the bleach before using your equipment. Anyway, on the the perry making process:
1. Pick or buy your pears. If you pick them leave them for 5-7 days before pressing to increase their flavour. Do not leave them for longer than this or they will turn brown inside and be useless. After this standing period, wash them - wheelbarrows are good for this and a wheelbarrow full of pears will yield around 6 gallons (6 Demijohns) of perry.
2. Now it's time to scrat (mash) the pears. There is no reason to build or buy an electric scratter unless you're planning on doing a lot of perry (more than 1 or 2 wheelbarrows). Hand scratters are hard work, but it's not that hard and they're quick. Plus they seem to deliver a better tasting perry - I have no idea why! Anyway, get on with scratting all the pears, do this on the day before you wish to press them. Collect the scrat in bucket or bowl. Yes it will look disgusting at this stage. You need to leave this scrat overnight to oxidise before you start pressing out the juice or your perry will not taste of pears.
3. Now it's time to press your pear scrat to extract the juice. Beware as a small amount of scrat will release a massive tide of juice all at once, so be prepared. You need to make a 'cheese' of the scrat at the bottom of the press. I use a net curtain off cut to do this - place the net curtain in the press, place some scrat in it, then wrap it up in the net curtain to form the cheese (see photo). Once you've done this you can start the pressing and watch the juice run out into your bucket. When no more juice runs out, remove the dry cheese and throw it into the compost. The repeat until you've got all the juice out of your pile of scrat. This pear juice tastes delicious, so sample it as though it looks very cloudy, it is really worth it!
4. Once you've finished pressing, add the pear juice to the demijohns - fill them as much as possible. Add the yeast starter - the yeast you bought will tell you how much starter needs to be in each demijohn (1 gallon or 40 pints). Also at this stage add your pectic enzyme (pectinase) if you want clear perry - again the pectinase will say how much to add. Finally put the air/water lock on the demijohns and move to one side in a place where they'll stay at around 18*C - 21*C until the air lock stops bubbling (about 14 days). This lack of bubbling will indicate that fermentation has stopped.
5. Now fermentation has stopped it's time to get your perry to clear - move the demijohns to a cool place (not freezing!) until the perry goes crystal clear.
6. You're now onto the final stage once your perry is clear. It is at this point you need to decide what sort of perry you like - sparkling or still? Sweet or dry? Usually your perry will be sweet enough anyway as pears contain a lot of unfermentable sugars that cannot be eaten by the yeast. The perry in the demijohns is dry still perry - if you taste this and like it then all you need to do is bottle it in sterilised (with bleach) bottles. If you prefer sparkling dry perry, then before bottling add 1/2 teaspoon or a very small amount of pear juice to each bottle before bottling your perry. If, however, you like even sweeter perry, things are a little more tricky (but not much!). To get sweeter still perry your best option is to kill the yeast in the demijohns with campden tablets, before sweetening it with sugar. But your other option is to use a sucralose sweetener which cannot be 'eaten' by the yeast in the perry. Sucralose sweeteners are everywhere, but check that your sweetener really does contain sucralose and not aspartamine etc. as the others will impart poor flavour. For sweeter still perry just sweeten with sucralose to taste and then bottle. For sweeter sparkling perry, sweeten with sucralose to taste, then add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar (not sucralose!) to each bottle before bottling - the sugar will be eaten by the yeast to produce sparkling bubbles, but the sucralose will remain to give you the sweet taste you want.
7. That's it, put your perry bottles somewhere cool and waterproof (in case they explode!) for 3 months. Traditionally in England, these bottles of green perry are kept outside over winter and then in spring (as they warm up) the malic acid transformation takes place and you end up with a cracking perry around April/May. If you can't wait that long, don't worry, if you bottled in September, you'll have a great perry by December!
Traditionally made perry - what's better than that?
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