Unlike Great Britain, where cider is for all time, American people start seeing cider in October. To Americans cider is non-alcoholic, unfiltered apple juice. This is a drink I enjoy in spite of the fact I really dislike commercial bottled apple juice. It could be the extensive filtering and pasteurizing hat takes all the “life” and texture out of the juice or it could be that after all this the juice is just to sweet for my taste. There really is a lot of sugar in juice, it’s healthier to eat whole fruit. But cider is part of autumn and there is nothing quite like fresh pressed cider.
Unpasteurized cider has a life of it’s own, however. A jug of cider will gradually fill with gas and blow it’s top when left to it’s own devices. The plastic jugs commonly used these days are particularly vulnerable. This is because there are naturally occurring yeasts on the apples which initiate fermentation. The cider becomes increasingly fizzy and foamy as sugars are turned into ethanol and carbon dioxide. Left to it’s own devices and exposure to air a genus of bacteria known acetobacter will find its way to the ethanol and begin to convert it into acetic acid, known in common parlance as vinegar.
Getting cider into a proper alcoholic drink for mass production requires taking control of what yeasts are at work, as is done with bread, beer and wine. It also requires limiting exposure to air and the vinegar forming acetobacter. The masters of cider are the British. Britain produces more cider than any other nation on the planet, using 57 percent of all apples grown in the U.K. My introduction to commercially bottled cider was in the U.K. and one thing I’ve noticed in sampling the growing number of American ciders is they are sweeter, as is almost everything in the in the U.S. British ciders are usually much drier. This American sweetness trend is backed up by the fact that in 2014, the original Strongbow dry cider was discontinued in the US by Heineken and replaced with two new sweeter variants.
There are tons of cideries in the region I live and I can thankfully continue drinking it all year. It may take me as long as that and longer to search out a nice dry variety. I scan the websites and look at the selections and figure which are worth a drive. Some, like Bold Rock, have certain items readily available in stores and others only at their locations. Blue Toad has at least two that promise to be dry so they are on the visit list. And there is a very tiny one Bryant’s Small Batch that looks both promising as to cider and a bit of an adventure to reach. They list about half their selections as dry so it will be worth it to brave backcountry roads and cell phone service dead areas to get to the working farm it’s located on. Less remote but further away is Halcyon Days Cider, further south but fortunately not far from the interstate. They are only open on weekends but that is no problem. It’s worth a drive for a single varietal cider.
In the meantime I will try to squeeze in another trip to my local orchard in hopes they have some fresh pressed cider. If those cold evenings ever come this year I will want some cider to mull and fresh cider actually freezes beautifully and keeps for months. You just have to remember it will expand quite a bit and only fill the container three quarters full.