Cider Revival


   The resurgence of cider is worth a celebration! Cider or cider-like beverages and cider making traditions have a long history around the globe. Many people may not know that cider has been around since before 55 B.C. When the Romans invaded England, they reported to have found the locals already drinking a delicious cider-like beverage made from apples. According to ancient records, the Romans and their leader Julius Caesar, were great cider enthusiasts and perfected the art of cider making. However, it is unknown just how long the locals had been making this apple drink prior to the arrival of the Romans.

During Medieval times, cider making was an important industry. Monasteries sold strong, spiced cider to the public. Farm laborers received a "cider allowance" as part of their wages. English cider making probably peaked around the mid-seventeenth century, when almost every farm had its own cider orchard and press. Fermenting of apples and soon after, distilling, was perfected in southern England, France and Spain. Still to this day you can find large, old grinding stones in fields in the European countryside that were used to crush apples for cider.

When English settlers immigrated to America, only inedible crabapples were found on land. They began cultivating other varieties using grafting wood and seed sent over from Europe. Grain did not thrive in the soil and was too costly to import and apple orchards flourished. This made cider apples abundant and easily obtainable. Therefore, cider became the beverage of choice. Water was not sanitary to consume because it was often contaminated with Cholera, dysentery, E. coli, and other microbes that would cause illness and possible death. Cider was often consumed instead of water since the low alcohol content killed the  bacteria. Also, it could be stored for a short amount of time and it was even safe for children to drink since it was relatively low in alcohol. Consumption of cider increased steadily during the eighteenth century, due in part to the efforts of John Chapman, or the man better known as the legendary Johnny Appleseed, who planted many apple trees in the Midwest. As the west was discovered, Johnny Appleseed would travel and start orchards, leaving landowners to care for the apple trees while he continued west.

However, a series of events led to cider's fall in popularity. German beer was introduced and it had a faster fermentation process.  At that time in America, there was an increase of German immigrants that set up large breweries for producing large quantities of of beer. The production of apple cider was still limited to small farms and was not being mass produced. The religiously based Temperance movement then caused many church-going farmers to give up cider. Some even went as far as to chop down their apple trees. Prohibition became the law of the land which destroyed the market for apple cider. Prohibitionists  burned countless fields of trees to the ground and surviving orchards  began cultivating sweeter (non-cider) apples out of necessity. Once Prohibition was repealed, beer production was easier to regain since barley and other grains were quick growing crops and could be fermented within a year (as opposed to apple orchards that need 7  years to reach mature, fruit bearing age). Also, some varietals of apples that were destroyed were irreplaceable as they were sent over from Europe with cider making in mind. It would take many years to replant those orchards and have cider regain it's popularity.

Today, traditional cider making is experiencing a major resurgence in both America and Europe partially because of the popularity and success of micro breweries. It has proven that consumers want to experience the variety and creativity of craft b beer and now, cider, here around the world. Not to mention the fact that globalization makes this a reality. Apple varieties can be accessed from across the world- you can  buy some unusual apple varieties sold in your neighborhood grocery store that originated half way around the world. Here at Trees of Antiquity, you can collect your own hand-grafted  heirloom apple trees with a click of a button.

The Art of Making Cider:  All European ciders from England, France and Spain have complex aromas and bold flavors. Cider making traditions do vary among the countries, but one trait is shared. They all use naturally occurring yeast that can be found in the fruit itself for fermentation. This results in a different flavor profile than cider made with yeasts. French ciders, especially from Normandy and Brittany are sweet, yet complex. Most of the cider makers from France use a technique called keeving that stops the fermentation before yeast converts all the natural sugars to alcohol. These sparkling ciders are packaged in strong glass bottles topped with a cork and cage. Ciders labeled as Brut are the driest, but will almost always be sweeter than dry ciders from other cider making regions. French ciders labeled as Demi-Sec or Doux will be sweeter still. Typical alcohol content is 3-5% ABV. In England, cider is typically drier. As with French ciders, most English ciders use tannic apple varieties known as  bittersweets and bittersharps that contribute to a pleasant astringency and bitterness to the finished cider. These ciders also have dominant aroma and flavor notes are often spice, smoke, or in some cases barnyard. The mouth feel will be similar to that of red wine. Many bottled English ciders are still, but modest carbonation is also common. Since English ciders are fermented more fully than French ciders, the typical alcohol content will be higher, usually 6-9% ABV. Currently in the U.S.., there is not a "traditional" style of cider making since cider's popularity has recently been revived for the first time since Prohibition. U. S. cider is "generally understood to be an alcohol beverage fermented mainly from the juice of apples or pears. The alcohol content of most hard ciders varies between 1.2% and 8.5% alcohol by volume (ABV)." As long as cider follows that definition so that it can be legally sold in the U.S.., it is considered cider.

To begin the cider making process, apples are picked or shaken off the trees. Typically, harvested apples rest outdoors for a week after harvest so that they soften slightly. Apples are washed and freed from debris. Rotten apples or apples that are too decayed are sorted out and discarded. The good apples are ground up, created what's called pomace, which is than loaded onto the apple press between porous sheets of cloth. These layers of pomace can be up to five inches thick, and over a dozen pomace layers can be put into a single press. Once the fruit pulp is in place, the cider press is "racked" to squeeze out and collect the available juice. The pomace is repeatedly broken up by hand and repressed until no more liquid can be extracted.

At this point, the collected juice undergoes fermentation. Cider makers can ferment the juice naturally using the existing wild yeast or use chemicals to remove the wild yeast and apply their own yeast strain for more control. The sugars in the juice convert into alcohol within the air-locked containers for several weeks at low temperatures. It is during primary fermentation that cider as we know it begins to take form. This is the point at which cider makers can stop the fermentation process and begin to blend the ciders to achieve a desired flavor balance and/or add a signature flavor to their product. Depending on the style of the cider maker and the tradition being followed (for example, French and English ciders have some traditional characteristics that are discussed above), the final blend and bottling of the cider is carbonated, either synthetically with carbon dioxide or naturally with the addition of a small amount of sugar to each bottle. These  bottles will age for a few weeks and are  best drunk within a year.

Great Cider Starts with Great Apples:  A lot of consideration goes into planning an orchard for cider making. Since most apple trees do not show fruit for several years, the apple varietals to plant must be decided with  much thought. The balance of the fruit is very important. Ideally, you would want a mix of apples that gives sweetness and acidity, as well as apples that are sometimes called "spitters" (often bitter and not ideal for eating as fresh fruit). A few of our favorite apple varietals which provide the base flavors are Ashmead's Kernel, Bramley Seedling, Belle de Boskoop, Cox Orange Pippin, Egremont Russet, Grimes Golden, Golden Russet, Goldrush, King David, Kidd's Orange Red, Hudson's Golden Gem, Newtown Pippin, Northern Spy, Red Winter Pearmain, Spitzenburg, White Pearmain, Wickson and Wyken Pippin. These heirloom apples contribute subtle layers of flavor, acidity and a bit of tannings. They also happen to be many of our favorite apples for eating out of hand and several are wonderful for baking and pies.  That said, you still need a higher percentage of high tannin varieites such as Campfield, Foxwhelp, Harrison, Kingston Black, Nehou, Muscat De Bernay, Porter's Perfection, Tremblett's Bitter, and/or Yarlington Mill. These varieties will boost the mouthfeel for your cider. If you are considering apple tree for backyard gardening or to start an orchard, don't overlook cider apple varieties. Cider can be made on a small scale and there are plenty of recipes available. Imagine the possibilities....

* Local orchardist in San Jose notes: Also don’t forget that folks may also start fiddling around with fruit-additives to their brewing as the new brewer population searches for a Local Brew Style of their very own.  Valley of Heart’s Delight history could be a beacon for folks wanting to make a mark with those less common traditional styles.  For instance cherry, orange, ginger, quince, peach, pear, etc. are known either for their own cider, or as part of the historical recipe for Lambic beers or in the final ‘bottle conditioning’ (fermentation) for specialty IPAs and Lagers instead of cane sugar, corn sugar, or honey. 

  -Merlin, I.A., Valois, s. and Padilla-Zakour, O.I. "Cider Apples and Cider-Making Techniques in Europe and North America". HORTICULTURAL REVIEWS-WESTPORT THEN NEW YORK (Online): 34; 365-416; 2008. Accessed 16 June 2017

 -Stewart, Amy. The History of  Cider making. Ogden Publications, Inc. June 2013

- Wikipedia Contributors. "Cider" Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, 18 Jul. 2017. Web. 16 June 2017