A perpective on real cider
Feb/05/2014 05:24 PM
While cider is still rare in today’s market compared with beer or wine, this was not always the case. Historically, hard ciders were the original table wines in the colonies that became the United States. Every farmstead started by planting apple trees, in order to produce hard cider and vinegar. At that time, there were no waving fields of grain for beer or great fields of grape arbors for wine. And both of these were difficult to grow in quantity from the outset. Apples however love the temperate climate, and naturalized here very easily. Once planted they could be left on their own, and whatever fruit that showed up could be harvested year after year without a lot of input.
- A perspective on real cider:
However, the culture of hard cider was for the most part a rural tradition and lost, as urbanization, and finally Prohibition combined to virtually wipe out hard cider production in this country. So when producers began reintroducing cider to the American market, they turned to ciders from other countries for inspiration, and used modern techniques to produce a specific consistent cider. Many producers today work hard to produce cider with residual sweetness and/or carbonation, by using forced carbonation, sulfites, sterile filtration, pasteurizing, preservatives, etc. Thus, most cider on the market today has little connection with the American cider culture from colonial times.
If you were making cider on your farm a few centuries ago, your cider would be unique to your location based on the source of the seeds you planted, your soil flora and fauna, climate, and regional yeast strains, plus variations every year depending on which trees produced more fruit, and how that fruit developed. The process was simple: gather apples, crush/press the fruit, collect the juice, put it in a barrel, and let it do its thing. As your cider fermented it passed through an aging continuum, never staying in one state for very long. It would have started as sweet juice, and as it slowly fermented would have lost sweetness, gained alcohol, and for a period of time exhibited effervescence as the yeast gave off carbon dioxide while fermenting the sugars in the juice. By sometime in the winter the yeasts would have consumed all the sugars, and the carbon dioxide level would drop as it escaped into the air. Eventually, by spring or summer you would have a dry (not sweet), still (non-effervescent) beverage. If there was any left.
Our cider ethos:
At Bear Swamp Orchard, we love the notion that cider produced on every property, by every maker, is different, and that it will also vary throughout its aging continuum, and from year to year. In order to embrace that diversity, and to express the terroir of our own location, we allow the yeasts from our orchard to ferment our fruit, and don’t interfere with fermentation by filtering, sulfiting, pasteurizing, or adding other processing/fermenting aids. Our yeast community is healthy and diverse, since we grow organically and use a minimum of sulfur to control fungal diseases. We use some modern varieties of fruit, but use older varieties and unnamed, wild seedling trees to provide old-fashioned character to the cider. Our goal is to produce cider similar to what might have been enjoyed by people living here two centuries ago; a cider that can really only be created here.
Thats our high horse, and we’re standing on it!