All about cider
The time is ripe to discover the delicious world of cider!
A passion for cider has existed for centuries. In 1708, J. Philips, the English poet, wrote an epic style poem, (spanning two volumes!), called Cyder. He elevates cider to glorious heights and enthuses that only the best apples should be used,. . . thy Press with purest Juice Shall flow . . .
What is cider?
Most cider is made from fermented apple juice. Natural cider has nothing added and relies, for fermentation, upon the wild yeast present in the apples. For mass-produced ciders, a yeast culture is added in order to achieve consistency. Although much of today’s cider is produced from apple concentrate, many traditional cider-makers use only cider apples, cultivated specifically for the purpose.
Both traditional and mass-market ciders are available carbonated or still and range in style from the bone dry, to the extremely sweet.
A thirst for decent, real cider has led to much experimentation amongst world cider producers. New, flavoursome cider apples are constantly being developed to meet popular demand. Nowadays, modern varieties called Kingston Black, Brown’s Apple and Yarlington are being planted alongside traditional cider apples such as Foxwhelp, Blood Butcher and Slack-my-Girdle.
A fresh optimism is sweeping through the cider industry. Today's cider producers are bubbling with confidence.
Cider has never tasted so good!
Cider is a world wide tradition. There is a general consensus that apple trees existed along the Nile River Delta as early as 1300 BC, but it is unclear whether cider was ever produced from their fruit.
When the Romans arrived in England in 55 BC, they were reported to have found the local Kentish villagers drinking a delicious cider-like beverage made from apples. It has been recorded that the Romans and in particular their leader, Julius Caesar, embraced the pleasant pursuit with enthusiasm! How long the locals had been making this apple drink, prior to the arrival of the Romans, is anybody’s guess.
By the beginning of the ninth century, cider drinking was well established in Europe and a reference made by Charlemagne clearly confirms its popularity.
After the Norman Conquest of 1066, cider consumption became widespread in England and orchards were established specifically to produce cider apples. During medieval times, cider making was an important industry. Monasteries sold vast quantities of their strong, spiced cider to the public. Farm labourers received a cider allowance as part of their wages—the quantity increased during haymaking. English cider making probably peaked around the mid seventeenth century, when almost every farm had its own cider orchard and press. The industry later went into decline, due to major agricultural changes. Cider regained its popularity during the twentieth century, but demand was largely for the mass-produced variety. Only in recent years has traditional cider making finally triumphed.
American history tells a different tale. Early English settlers introduced cider to America by bringing with them seeds for cultivating cider apples. During the colonial period, hard cider was one of America’s most popular beverages. Often, a town’s prosperity was judged by the volume of cider it produced! Consumption increased steadily during the eighteenth century, only to plummet dramatically after 1919, with prohibition.
Today, the tide has turned. Both in America and Europe, traditional cider making is experiencing a major resurgence. History has gone full circle.