Apple brandy, or applejack, is an alcoholic beverage made by distilling hard cider. A barrel filled with sweet cider and crushed apples was set aside in the fall and allowed to ferment for several weeks. A cold clear winter’s day was best for brandy making: the fire kept the person running the still warm and the cold air aided the condensation of the alcohol.
Apple brandy was first made in 1698 in New Jersey. It gained the name applejack because of how the brandy was made. Fermented apple cider would be set outside in winter to freeze, then the ice would be removed from the liquid. This process was known as "jacking" and it was done to increase the alcohol content of the drink. When apple brandy began being pro
duced commercially, it was made with evaporative distillation. Distillation is possible because of the different boiling points of alcohol (173° F) and water (212° F). Alcoholic liquids, if heated to a temperature above 173° but below 212°, produces an alcoholic vapor which may be re-condensed into a liquid with a much higher alcoholic content. A simple distillery consists of three parts: the still (a large, covered pot for heating the liquid), the condenser (a copper coil for cooling the separated alcohol and water), and the receiver (an open wooden container for collecting the distillate.) A carefully controlled fire was set to heat the fermented liquid and mash in the still, keeping the mixture just below the boiling point. The alcohol, however, was allowed to reach a temperature sufficient to vaporize it. The vaporized alcohol rose to the top of the still where it collected in the condenser and was cooled. Out of the end of the copper coil dripped the finished product: apple brandy.
A few varieties that could be used to make brandy include Hewe’s Crab, Horse Apple, Winesap, and Yates.