Great new article on search for complexity in American cider and future of the industry:
hambone - thanks for the link to the article; interesting read
I guess I’m lucky I really enjoy the cider we make from whatever mix we get in year to year plus a healthy helping of tannic apples from Poverty Lane, fermented the easy way with champagne yeast to full dryness.
It is true that my product is less complex than some European ciders I have tasted, but I at least have control over a few variables which I can adjust to my own preference. I’m anyway not that big a fan of the “barnyard” flavor component in more than very small quantities, which is a key element of artisan ciders. I think doing natural yeast fermentation would really deepen the flavor profile, but I’m happy with the cleaner flavor of champagne yeast and appreciate the predictability of the process.
One thing I think is interesting to remember is that historically most american cider wasn’t made with grafted English and French cider varieties. Most of it was made from seedling orchards, which are not usually much good except for cider. All those seeds planted by Johnny Appleseed were for cider orchards. Barring the occasional outstanding eating apple, which might then be propagated for that purpose if someone was around who knew how to graft. If you have not read it already and have any interest in apples and history, check out Johnny Appleseed and the American Orchard, published in 2012 and written by William Kerrigan:
It is an excellent and entertaining read. My local library system (Minuteman network) has three copies available.
In a blend from many trees, I think seedling apples have a lot to recommend them for cider use. Less predictable, but plenty have high tannins. Higher acid and lower sugar than traditional bittersweet cider apples.
These days people drink cider by choice rather than necessity, so our bar for taste is higher and of course everyone has different taste profiles for their own idea of ultimate cider. I know my palate is not as sophisticated as many people who are serious about cider, but I have had a couple of ciders from american producers (including Farnum and West County) that I like a lot. Also had products from those two that I did not like as much. I’d love to try the dry cider from Foggy Ridge - heard great things about it from a friend of a friend who lives near Richmond.
Holly- Agree we backyard growers can, over time, plant, graft, cull to produce cider we like. And we backyarders have the luxury (also fun) of playing roulette with natural yeasts, variety mixes, etc. Cider is what got me interested in growing, grafting. Very satisfying to make an excellent cider with your own hands.
Before I sound too much like a cider snob I should say I greatly enjoy drinking nearly any halfway decent cider, and I drink a lot of it. I also enjoy making and drinking my own stuff, I still have half a keg left in the basement. The only point I am making is the US is not producing what I would call world-class cider (yet). Only France, England, Spain, and Quebec are in that league from what I have tasted.
I wonder what percentage of the truly great named heirloom American cider apples are lost forever?
Some have been re-discovered like Harrison, Campfield, Graniwinkle, Hewes Crab, possibly Taliaferro (aka Nelson County Crab?).
We may need another chapter or two of widespread seedling planting in the U.S. to select new American cider stock. That takes time, money, land, long term monitoring, care.
Maybe Budweiser will fund such a project. Smile.
Many of the greatest ones have supposedly been found (White Crab is the main one in Coxe that is not found today but there is also Greyhouse etc). But, I’m not completely clear if the modern ones are all correct. Tom Burford doesn’t think the modern Hewes Crab is the original one. I was asking on one of the cider lists about that apple because my Hewes was ripening a full month ahead of the historical dates. Tom Burford was asked about this and his reply was that he feels the modern Hewes is in fact a seedling of the original one. Note that its still a great cider apple, but it rots too easily for me due to the early ripening so is not one I am growing. Its now Hewes Vermont Crab
Harrison according to Coxe falls from the tree in early November in New Jersey. My Harrison ripen almost six weeks before that. I also wonder if it is not the original one. Along with the ripening date the Coxe description says dry flesh (not on my Harrison), strongly indented at the calyx (not one mine), middling in size (towards large in mine), etc.
I have ten gallons of juice in my freezer waiting for me to get off my duff and make it into hard cider. This year wasn’t great for my orchard and I had limited varieties and amounts to work with. I squeezed mainly Gala, with some small additions of whatever happened to be available, and that made for a pretty bland, sweet juice. Fortunately I had a bumper crop of Geneva crab, and the pink juice from that makes a pretty zingie sweet cider when blended with the Gala. Lots of acid and a fair amount of what my taste buds recognize as tannins. Like some of you guys, I use champagne yeast and let it go completely dry. If the brix is low I’ll add enough sugar to get 6-8% alcohol, as a decent alcohol content helps stabilize the cider. I used to add frozen concentrate, but I can’t find a brand that lists the source of the juice that does not include China, and one joy of being a biochemist is having a great imagination about what might be in juice from there. I bottle in Grolsch-type bottles as that makes the process easier. I may eventually go to kegging, and then I can try for a carbonated semi-sweet cider. As it is, I have found that I can mix my almost champagne tasting cider with a bit of one of the too sweet commercial ciders if I want some sweetness. Turns out a local supermarket sells Brown Road English cider, which is imported by Crispin. The price for four pints is around $8.00 most places, but they sell it for $4.49 for some reason. Makes a great addition to my home made.
This topic fascinates me. I came across this excerpt from “America’s Apple” written by Russel Stephen Powell.
FROM COLONIAL TIMES until the mid-1800s, fresh cider that eventually turned hard was America’s main drink. For the early European settlers, hard cider was a main reason for growing apples, and nearly every landowner had a small orchard. Hard cider was inexpensive to make, and it stored well. It satisfied a desire for sweetness, and was mildly intoxicating. In some places, it was considered a safer drink than water.
Everyone drank cider fresh and hard, even children. But two things killed hard cider consumption: the rising popularity of beer around the mid-1800s, and the temperance movement in the late 19th century. As America’s rural population began migrating to cities, and new immigrant populations, especially Germans, brought a talent for brewing good, cheap beer, hard cider was unable to compete. Yet hard cider endured as a symbol of America’s widespread use (and abuse) of alcohol, becoming a target of the temperance movement and in the late 19thcentury.
The market for hard cider has never fully recovered. Since so many of its apples had been used to make juice and hard cider, the apple industry had to reinvent itself by promoting apples for fresh eating. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” an updated, Americanized version of a Welsh proverb from the mid-1800s, became the United States apple industry’s slogan after horticulturalist J. T. Stinson used the phrase in an address at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. The term “cider” was redefined as the sweet, fresh, unfermented apple juice. “Hard cider” became the new term for the alcoholic drink.
— From America’s Apple, Chapter 5, “A Multitude of Juices”
Treetop brand prides itself on using USA grown apples, mainly or solely from PNW orchards. I haven’t read one of their frozen concentrate cans, but you could see if the brand is available in your area.
I am trying to make my first batch of cider.
I have four jugs fermenting with four yeasts.
They are in their third week, having racked them all once.
Redstar Pasteur Red
I don’t know when to stop em and then bottle them. I have some swing top bottles, and my son says bottle one in a plastic bottle to see when they have too much gas, then “burp em.”
They are probably past ready. If the product has stopped bubbling , bottle ,add 1/4 tsp of corn sugar and cap.
Lower calorie (if its on the dry side)? Polyphenols?
I notice there is a strong trend for hopped cider these days. Haven’t yet tried one yet though I’m a dedicated hophead!
Me to. I love hops.
Drinking a Sierra Nevada Torpedo now, but I’m not sure about cider and hops. Can you suggest a brand?
Activated charcoal capsules, plenty of liquids, a good night’s rest, and maybe some B vitamins. I used to be a member of a very active homebrew club!
No, I haven’t tried a hopped cider and I can’t totally wrap my head around it until I do try one.