After reading the forum, I now know I’m not the first (nor the last) to
have arrived at the crazy notion that one day it might be nice to be
able to make cider from apples grown in my own garden orchard (either in
whole or in part).
By next spring I will have three cider specific apple trees planted:
Dabinet, Marechal, and Hewes. It will be some time before these
varieties fruit. While I wait I thought I would attempt making cider
using purchased apples.
My initial thought is to develop my skills (which are nil) and get an
idea of tastes certain ‘common’ varieties provide before blending and
working with cider varieties that are more or less unknown to me. I mean
you have to start somewhere, correct?
So what varieties would you recommend I try? I live in Ontario. As such
I have access to all the usual north-eastern North American varieties.
One popular variety for commercial cideries would appear to be the
Northern Spy but are their others that would be worth pressing.
You might find this list from Eve’s Cidery useful. You’re most likely to find apples from their “Aromatics” and “Dessert” categories available in farmer’s markets and stores, but you might get lucky and find a few “Sharps” as well.
Claude Jolicoeur’s book also has a listing by region of Canada and the US that discusses both traditional hard cider varieties best for the respective regions and also includes quite a few dessert apples.
If as you get started you feel like experimenting, you can always buy grape tannin and add small amounts to your cider. I did this a couple years ago with some apples I got from a friend since they were early-season apples that made a relatively bland must. That batch turned out better than I thought it would and some of the tannin carried through.
Its all about the blend! Cortland,N Spy, golden delicious are 3 that could provide the bulk of your juice, in lesser percentages, Red delicious, Mac. Likely most resulting dry cid3rs will be a bit thin as none of those provide much tannin.
I wanted others chime in first and I have to assume that you are talking about “HARD” cider.
Regardless i’m going to recommend Cortland as works good in the north and is not biennial for me.
It will fill the bucket when the others are still struggling.
For my family it is good to eat , cold fresh juice, and made some good wine.
@Levers101 you (and many others) have recommended C. Jolicoeur’s book. I have gone and borrowed a copy from the local library and I really appreciate the section on varieties.
@Daemon2525, yes hard cider : ) Cortland does sound like a good place to start.
I’m also thinking Spartan, Empire and possibly Spys too.
@JesseS, concerning thin cider – I completely forgot that I have an old, feral apple tree which grows in the back corner of my yard. Must be over 20 ft tall. I previously only thought of it as a good pollinator but I have tasted the cherry-sized fruit and found it to have high astringency. The tree is very productive so these crab apples may be good to experiment with!
My Northern Spy always tastes great and is very productive even when the other ones are stingy with giving any apples. It blooms a little later, for me, so I think that helps with some frost protection as well. I am in a 5b zone.
No other apple varieties. Cider or hard cider is not my thing. That hard cider thing is a whole different animal to get into. Lots of people and small businesses are getting into the cider/hard cider arena. I was at a place in Michigan about 4-5 years ago that hard an apple farm that made their own hard cider there. It looked like a neat place.
I have not tasted much hard cider either ,
but what I have not been a huge fan
I prefer dry taste , and commercial stuff I tried not liked.
Dw232 those crab apples the size of marbles try throwing them whole in the must you can also freeze to break them down more before fermenting
Also try some in a coffee cup after freezing, and thawing with hot water , and sugar for tea (and without sugar)
As a matter of fact I know red delicious is not a good tasting apple from the store I froze 35 pounds since they were supper cheap, and after thawing they turned like mush very juicy oxidized looking, but tasted great.