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It's cider brewing time of the year and I'm thinking of doing a cherry chocolate cider. My question is whether I should boil the cherries and chocolate nibs in a portions of the cider prior to pitching the yeast, just pitch the cherries (pureed) and nibs in the carboy to "soak" during the fermentation, or to use a cheesecloth bag during the fermentation. Each has its plusses and minusses. Any of you folk have some preferences or suggestions? I'm leaning towards the extraction of flavor before fementation.

update 28DEC2011

Cider is aging and early results seem to be that the flavors are very subtle. Think that this one will need at least 6 months to a year for the chocolate/cherry to come out from the cider base.

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Not sure if this is an answer or a suggestion.... look for cherry cider at local health marts, nurserys or orchards. We recently made a cider with 1 gallon of cherry cider and 4 gallons of apple cider. Fermented like crazy... and ready to bottle. This might be a easy alterantive. –  user2342 Jun 15 '12 at 4:20
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Do not boil the cherries. Do not boil the juice, either. You will create pectin, which will cause cloudiness in the cider among other things. Instead, you have two options:

1) Bring the cherries and juice up to temperature (at least 150 degrees) and hold for 30 minutes (I've seen as low as 10). If you use pasteurized juice (no preservatives!), use 2 gallons to heat up the cherries and hold the rest in the fridge until you're ready. When you are ready, use the cold cider to quickly cool the heated cherry/cider juice down to pitching temperature. This is my preferred method.

2) Add the cherries after primary fermentation. You have a slightly higher chance of infection, but the high ABV of ciders usually rule that out. This method can potentially get you a more pronounced cherry flavor and aroma. See this answer for more.

The chocolate is pretty simple since you're making cider. You aren't using specialty malts (although now I want to try that), so really it's just adding cacao nibs. Break them up, soak them in vodka (see this answer for more), and dump them in the fermenter. I do not believe you would need to boil the nibs. Boiling is usually recommended for cocoa powder.

Side note: Cherry + chocolate + apple = a flavor I can't form in my head. I'd like to know how this tastes.

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I used tart cherries and chocolate nibs, that both have a non-sweet if not slightly biter taste. The idea was that the sweetness of the apple should produce a more sweet flavor pairing. Think apple slices dipped in semi-sweet or bitter (european style) chocolate. –  drj Sep 19 '11 at 1:55
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