Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Full Throttle Bottle

Behold the power of Facebook.

When I first started researching cider, I found Old Time Cider, which, one way or another, lead me to Full Throttle Bottle on Facebook. Full Throttle Bottle is a specialty beer and wine store located in Seattle, WA. They post quite regularly on Facebook about new shipments coming in, things they are drinking, and brewers coming in for tastings. It is so tempting.

Now, we live in Vancouver, WA, which is right next to Portland, OR. Washington and Oregon have very similar laws when it comes to alcohol. Liquor is sold in state run facilities, and wine and beer are sold in grocery stores. Apparently, they are so much alike that even though we are in Washington, we are most definitely part of Portland’s distribution. This means that what is sold in our local stores is usually from Oregon, especially wine. Meanwhile, Full Throttle Bottle is in Seattle, so it is part of a different distribution market, one that we are not part of. Their posts were talking about stuff that we can’t get here, and it made us envious.

On a recent trip to Seattle, we stopped by Full Throttle Bottle. They had the most cider I had ever seen. Most of it was craft cider from Washington State and a few from France, and almost all of them I couldn’t get at home. They also told me that Red Barn Cider in Mt. Vernon, WA was going to be coming there for a tasting on Wednesday, April 7 between 5pm and 7pm. Sadly, I cannot not go because it is in the middle of the week.

So I recommend that you check out Full Throttle Bottle if you are ever in Seattle for their cider selection. I also have to say that I would have never gone there if it hadn’t been for their Facebook posts.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

By the Bottle

Our closest beer store is called By the Bottle in downtown Vancouver, WA. By the Bottle was voted best beer store by the Northwest Brewing News Readers Choice Awards in the state of Washington for 2009. At first, we had a hard time believing that, as it is a small store. Surely there is a bigger beer store in Seattle that could beat ours out. Since then, we have been to two Seattle beer stores, and two Portland stores, and we have realized the gem we have in our back yard.

While By the Bottle is small, it is well lit with UV filters on the lights to prevent light damage to the beer. While all the beer stores have knowledgeable staff, By the Bottle’s owner does something different with her store that sets it above the rest – how the beers are organized. Their website states, “Overall, domestics and imports are grouped separately. Then, they are designated by region, and then by style order from light to dark. So if you’re in the mood for a domestic stout, all of the brands of this style will all be in one place. Placards above each cooler door clearly indicate the organization.” We find this system of organizing the best. Think of it this way, those two beers would be entered at a competition together, so shouldn’t they be shelved together? With By the Bottle, they are all in one place, and that is great when the mood strikes you for a particular style of beer.

If beer isn’t your thing, like it isn’t mine, By the Bottle does have a small selection of ciders, including Ace Cider, and a few meads out of California.

Monday, March 29, 2010

History of Cider Part V: The Decline of Cider in North America

In my last couple of posts, I outlined domestic apples coming to North America and their increase in popularity and propagation along with cider becoming the preferred beverage. However, as in England, America began to experience a rural to urban migration that hurt cider’s production and popularity.

  • Ben Watson explains the decline, “Until around 1850, apple-growing and cidermaking remained closely linked to the small, self-reliant homestead farm, but the migration of workers to cities and to the fertile lands of the West after the Civil War meant that many old orchards were abandoned. Also, homemade farm cider, which was unfiltered and unpasteurized, didn’t travel well to the new centers of population. Coupled with this growing urbanization and resettlement during the late nineteenth century, a steady stream of immigrants from Germany and northern Europe led to the establishment of more breweries in America and increased the consumption of beer” (page 27).
  • Hiram F. “Okanogan” Smith planted apple trees in central Washington State in 1848. Unlike Johnny Appleseed, these apple trees were planted for shipping and eating, not cider. Today, Washington produces half of the Unities States’ apples, and about 5% of the world’s apples.
  • Around 1850s, damage done to apples by insects such as the codling moth and diseases like apple scab discouraged apple growers. This led the cutting down of orchards in the 1880s and increased use of arsenical insecticides and fungicides.
  • In 1860, around 84% of Americans lived on farms.
  • A short blurb on cider in The New York Times in 1901.
  • The Temperance movement began to rise, and cider was no exception to them. Natural apple cider is about 6% alcohol, but American ciders had slowly been creeping up in alcohol content to allow for better storage and therefore shipping. Ben Watson explains, “Producers increased the final strength of the cider much as they do today, by adding a sweetener (honey, sugar, raisins, and so on) to the juice before or during fermentation. By the late eighteenth century, the alcohol content of the standard cider sold in taverns ran 7.5% - still not producting that much of a kick. Some producers, however, added rum to their rough cider, making it a less than “temperate” beverage. Also, the impurities found in traditional applejack (a strong, concentrated liquor that was made by freezing hard cider outside in the winter) gave drinkers awe-inspiring hangovers and, over time, led to the unfortunate condition known as apple palsy. Finally, just as had happened in earlier England, the good name of cider was besmirched by unscrupulous manufactures, who made it out of just about anything…” (pages 27-28)
  • Many farmers who sympathized with the temperance movement cut down apple trees. Others started pasteurizing unfermented sweet apple juice and selling it inoffensive “sweet cider,” which is the beginning of the word confusion of cider by Americans today.
  • By 1910, only 30% of Americans lived on farms.
  • The winter of 1917-1918 was unusually cold, killing many apple orchards, including cider trees, especially the breed Baldwin.
  • Cider production in 1919 was only at 13 million gallons verses 55 million gallons in 1899.
  • In 1919, the temperance movement was successful in its push to have the federal government declare that the making and sale of alcohol was illegal, marking the beginning of Prohibition, which was not repealed until 1933. Brian Palmer explains the impact, “The temperance movement encouraged the remaining orchardists to pasteurize and bottle their unfermented juice. Prohibition forced the holdouts to either chop down their trees or to convert their operations to grafted eating apples. Once Prohibition ended, cider never came back. Part of the reason lies in the nature of the product. Unlike barley farmers, who could adjust annual plantings fairly quickly to meet surging post-Prohibition demand, orchardists would have had to graft cider apples painstakingly onto an entire field of eating-apple trees or spend years starting a new orchard from seed. Beer manufacturers also lobbied hard for Prohibition's repeal, which gave them an incentive to get brewing again when the laws changed. Cider makers, who typically worked independently and produced their wares in small batches, didn't have the same drive once the ban was lifted. Urbanization also worked against cider, which was grown, fermented, and consumed on farms.” Thus, cider making traditions were only practiced by limited local farmers and enthusiasts.
  • Another devastating winter occurred in 1933-1934, killing the remaining Baldwin trees. Farmers replaced them with the hardier McIntosh.

Conclusion on April 5, 2010

My sources include:

  • Palmer, Brian. “Slate: What Would John Adams Drink?” September 30, 2009
  • Watson, Ben. Cider, Hard and Sweet, 2nd Edition. 2009. Pages 27-28

For further reading on Prohibition in general, see:

Also see:
  • Morgan, Joan and Richards, Alison. The New Book of Apples: The Definitive Guide to Apples, Including Over 2,000 Varieties. 2002
  • Juniper, Barrie B and Mabberley, David J. The Story of the Apple. 2006

Friday, March 26, 2010

Book Review: Making Wild Wines & Meads

Admittedly, it is a little hard for me to review the front portion of Making Wild Wines & Meads: 125 Unusual Recipes Using Herbs, Fruits, Flowers, and More by Pattie Vargas and Rich Gulling. Because it was not my first wine making book, I am not as comfortable pulling out this 1999 book on winemaking techniques. What I use this book for is for more recipes and inspiration.

This book is the best book I have come across for organizing recipes. Recipes are alphabetized by the primary ingredient within their subject chapters. Chapters include:

  • Making wines from fruits
  • Making wines from flowers, nuts, and vegetables
  • Making meads, melomels and metheglins
  • Making wines from herbs

For instance, for apples there is a dry apple wine, medium-sweet apple wine, spiced apple wine, crab apple wine, and an apple cider wine before it moves on to apricot recipes. Each recipe takes up a page and has the title across the top, which makes it easy to find recipes. Sometimes recipes contain a little variation on the bottom of the page. It is also quite sterile when it comes to the recipes, much like cooking, telling you what you need and how to make it. This is in contrast to Terry Geary’s The Joy of Home Winemaking personal commentary about how or why things are done a particular way. This could be a good thing if you are annoyed with Geary’s comments, but it could be a bad thing as you may not learn why things are done a particular way.

The back of the book is lacking in anything interesting, useful, and at your fingertips.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ice Cider

Ice wine is made from grapes that have been allowed to freeze, which concentrates their sugars, before picking. The result is usually a sweet dessert wine.

According to Ben Watson’s Cider: Hard & Sweet, a Frenchman living in Quebec by the name of Christian Barthomeuf began experimenting with trying to make ice cider in a similar fashion as ice wine. In 1996, the first commercial ice cider became available. In 2007, about fifty ice cider producers mostly in southern Quebec produced half a million bottles.

Watson says there are two methods to make ice cider, cryoconcentration and cryoextraction. The first method is very much like applejack in that fresh pressed apple cider is allowed to freeze and have the ice removed leaving a higher concentration of sugar, but unlike applejack, the sweet cider has not been allowed to ferment yet. The second method involves leaving the apples on the trees until they freeze at temperatures around 16⁰F to 5⁰F, usually in January. Then the apples are harvested and pressed while still partially frozen. Since very few apple varieties stay on the tree that long, sometime apples from cold storage are allowed to freeze outside.

Watson goes on to say that Quebec has some standards for how much sugar should be present before fermentation and after fermentation, leaving a sweet full flavored apple cider between 7 and 13 percent alcohol.

Watson states, "According to Charles Crawford, owner of Domaine Pinnacle, it takes 80 apples to make just one 375 ml. bottle of ice cider, which is only one reason it is so expensive. The harvest, pressing, and eight- or nine- month fermentation are all labor-intensive, and producers use special wine yeasts and must stop fermentation to leave just the right amount of residual sugar."

Waston discourages people from making ice cider, saying it should be left to the pros. He cites the difficulty to freeze apples in other regions and difficulty in stopping the fermentation, which he says a failure will end up in a strong cidre fort. He even points out that some ice cider makers have batches that they can’t sell as ice cider, and convert it to a dessert apple wine kind of like pommeau.

Edit: I found this excellent blog on ice cider by Real Cider out of the UK after I posted my own on ice cider. Please give it a read.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Traditional applejack is like making brandy, but instead of heating up to remove the alcohol from the water, applejack is frozen to remove the water from the alcohol. This technique is sometimes referred to as “cold distilling.”

Making applejack was once popular in the New England area of the United States. It was made by putting a bucket of apple cider outside in the winter where temperatures drop below 0⁰ F and the water in the cider would freeze, which was then scooped off, leaving behind the alcohol. This process is repeated several times to remove most of the water and concentrate the alcohol.

The colder the temperatures are, the higher the applejack proof can become. In Wines & Beers of Old New England, Sanborn C. Brown estimates that 0⁰ F can yield a 28 proof or 14 percent alcohol by volume applejack. If the temperatures were around -30⁰F, the applejack could reach 65 proof. Therefore, it can be as weak as wine or as strong as brandy depending on where it was made and how cold it got.

Annie Proulx and Lew Nichols in Cider: Making, Using & Enjoying Sweet & Hard Cider do mention that “Applejack makers are concerned with getting the most alcohol out of the weather and the cider for their efforts, so” they will add extra sugar and use wine yeasts that can make a higher alcohol apple wine. This process is done during the fall so that the freezing process can begin in January. However, a high alcohol apple wine does not increase the applejack proof, but the temperature does, as previously described. They describe applejack “very flavorsome, but dry, and many prefer to sweeten it to taste before bottling” (page 167).

The real problem with cold distilling is that the finished product has an increased level of toxins. Fermentation creates a few toxins, such as esters and aldehydes, but they are at low dosages that really do not harm the body. With regular heat distilling, these toxins are the first to boil off at the low temperatures in what is called the “head”, and they are set aside for industrial uses such as making lacquer, nail enamel, and cleaning solvents. It smells very much like finger nail paint remover. The second part of heat distilling is the “heart”, which is the consumable ethyl alcohol. The last part, the “tails”, is more toxins such as fusel oils and amyl and propyl alcohols, which are harmful if swallowed at these higher concentrates. These three sections are common to every heat distillation, and can be separated by smell and timing in the distillation process. However, with cold distilling, these toxins are not removed, and the constant removal of water in cold distilling further concentrates them. As a result of the toxins in applejack, it is well known for having a “kick” and then leaving the drinker with a horrible hangover the next day, despite being possibly a lower alcohol content than other higher proof heat distilled spirits.

To read more on the process, check out Annie Proulx and Lew Nichols’ Cider: Making, Using & Enjoying Sweet & Hard Cider and Ben Watson’s Cider: Hard & Sweet. Remember, even though applejack is not distilled with heat, the process of cold distillation is still considered illegal in the United States without a proper permit.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Apple Brandy

Apple brandy is distilled cider. To make brandy, you first ferment apple juice into cider, and then you heat the cider at a temperature in which the alcohol evaporates while the water does not. It is done in such a controlled method that the alcohol vapor becomes condensation and is collected as a liquid, allowed to age (usually in oak), and then bottled. Ben Watson described it in Cider: Hard & Sweet, “In this way, humble hard cider undergoes a kind of metamorphosis, from light, low-alcohol drink that quenches the thirst on a hot summer’s day to a volatile, intoxicating liquid that warms the heart and fires the soul in the dark watches of a winter night” (page 116).

Watson also attributes the first written reference to distilling cider to Gilles de Gouberville in 1553. It quickly rose in popularity, enough so that France granted a closed guild of apple brandy distillers in 1606.

Considered the best apple brandy in the world, Calvados is made in a Normandy, France region where it got its name and other parts of Normandy. There, regulations stipulate that only Calvados can come from this region, and the cider must be double distilled. Watson explains:

“The cider is distilled twice, as the first pass though the still results in a liquor that is only about 30 to 40 percent alcohol. The French call this first run les petites eaux, or ‘little waters,’ which is the same thing whiskey distillers refer to as ‘low wines.’ Revaporizing these low wines in the still doubles their strength and produces a clear, roughly apple brandy of around 140 to 150 proof (70 to 75 percent alcohol). The second distillation also ensures that the brandy, after aging, will have sufficient body and bouquet. Like good whiskeys, Calvados loses much of its rough, raw edge during storage. It is always barrel-aged in wood, preferably in oak casks… Calvados must be aged for at least two years at a storage temperature around 55⁰ F… most Calvados takes on a golden straw or light amber hue during the long-term tenure inside the oak cask… Before bottling, the brandy is sometimes cut back with distilled water to a final strength of between 80 and 100 proof (40 to 50 percent alcohol)” (page 118-119).

At my tour of Clear Creek Distillery in Portland, OR, I learned that they only used Golden Delicious apples to make their apple brandy. They crushed the apples, but did not press them before allowing them to ferment. This technique is common with eau-de-vie. Watson says it was explained to him as part of a New York State Agricultural Experiment Station demonstration as a way to have a prolonged contact with the pulp and skins, which increases the bouquet of the distilled cider. I should note also that Clear Creek Distillery only did a single distill on the apple pulp.

Sadly, a single distill is not the only area in which US apple brandy distillers cut corners. Annie Proulx and Lew Nichols in Cider: Making, Using & Enjoying Sweet & Hard Cider explain that unlike the French, who have ridged laws concerning where and how Calvados is made, the US has no such guidelines. Coupled with:

“the purposes of supply and marketing economics, apple brandy is a blend of apple and grain neutral spirits. Harry Weiss, in his definitive work, The History of Applejack or Apple Brandy in New Jersey from Colonial Times to the Present (New Jersey Agricultural Society, 1954), puts the reasons in a nutshell – grains return far greater alcohol volume for volume and at a considerably less cost than apples. The Weiss equation holds that two bushels of sound apples are needed to make one gallon of 50 percent apple alcohol, while the same quantity of rye or other small grains will return three gallons of 50 percent, or 100 proof, and corn three and a half gallons with similar strength. Since good apples cost considerably more than grain, pure apple brandy is noncompetitive with grain spirits, and blending the costlier apple with less expensive neutral spirits lessens the disparity at the marketplace” (page 168).

I do not think this was true for Clear Creek Distillery, as they were very proud of their craft liquor, but it is something to be aware of when looking to purchase apple brandy.

Monday, March 22, 2010

History of Cider Part IV: Apples and Cider in North America

So far, I have only been looking at European history of apples and cider. Today, I will turn my attention to the New World.

  • While North America did have a few wild apples including garland crab (Malus cornaria), prairie crab (M. ioensis), and southern crab (M. angustifolia), officials are unsure how much they were used by Native Americans.
  • Nine years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in America, the first European apple trees were planted in 1623 in Boston by William Blackstone, who was a dissident of the Church of England and a minister to the Plymouth settlers. Stories say he saddle trained a bull and rode around the country side distributing apples to his friends. Due to problems with the British colonial authorities, he moved to Rhode Island in 1635 and established another apple orchard there.
  • Ben Watson states, “To the settlers of this new country, the apple represented the perfect homestead fruit. An apple tree, once it began to bear, would dependably produce bushels of fruit that could be used immediately for eating or cooking. Some varieties, like Roxbury Russet, could be stored in a cold cellar and kept all winter long, while others, like the old Hightop Sweet apple reputedly grown at Plymouth Plantation, could be sliced and dried for later use. But cider played the most crucial role in America’s rural economy, as pressing and fermenting the fresh juice of the apple was the easiest way for farmers to preserve the enormous harvest that came from even a modest orchard. Cider was also the basis for many other products, such as applejack, apple brandy, and cider vinegar, which was used to preserve other fresh foods and for myriad other purposes around the home” (pages 23-24).
  • In 1647, the first grafted tree from Europe arrived and was planted by Gov. Peter Stuyvesant in New Amsterdam. That same year, apple trees were being grafted onto wild rootstock in Virginia.
  • In 1741, apple trees from North America were beginning to be exported to other locations such as the West Indies. In 1773, the English apple crops failed, in which American apples were imported there as a result.
  • As in England, paying with cider became normal, especially in rural areas that did not see much currency. In 1740, cider cost three shillings for a barrel, compared to 1817 when it was selling for five dollars a hogshead. During this time, William Coxe encouraged cidermakders to convert part of their cider to vinegar, which was three times the price of cider. In his book A View of the Cultivation of Fruit Trees written in 1817, he lists how much cider and apple brandy were made.
  • Most people could not afford to buy European grafted apple trees, so much of the propagation and spread of apples in North America was done by seed, as they were easy to carry and plant. Orchards sprung up where farmers disposed of the crushed and pressed apple pomace that included seeds. However, the most famous spreading of apple seeds was done by a man named John Chapman , AKA Johnny Appleseed. An eccentric man, he tried to push west ahead of settlers between 1797 and at least 1806 to have established orchards by time settlements were beginning to develop.
  • Watson estimates that one out of every ten farms in New England owned and operated a cider mill by 1775. He explains cider’s popularity, “…most early settlers preferred not to drink the local water, which could be unpalatable or even – close to settlements – polluted. This left milk and alcoholic beverages, but importing such a staple as ale from England was expensive and chancy, and early experiments in growing barley and hops in New England had proved a dismal failure… Apple trees, however, could be grown almost everywhere in America, and it didn’t take long for the colonists to put down their persimmon beer and take up cidermaking in earnest” (pages 24-25). A single village near Boston with about forty families reported in 1726 of making 10,000 barrels of cider. In 1767, the per capita average of 1.14 barrels of cider was being consumed in Massachusetts, by both men, women, and children, averaging about 35 gallons of cider. John Adams, the second president of the United States, drank a tankard of cider every morning.
  • In 1790, around 96% of Americans lived on farms which produced nearly all the food they needed, while only 4% of the population lived in towns.
  • Seed propagation lead to the establishment of many new apple breeds, which in turn lead nurseries in the 1800s to offer many different apple varieties. There were more than five hundred cultivated apple varieties in 1850, and eleven hundred that had originated in America was listed in Fruit and Fruit Trees of America in 1872 by Charles Downing.
  • In the 1840 Whig presidential campaign, William Henry Harrison and John Tyler used the log cabin and the cider barrel as their logo for self reliant Americans, and gave out cider to all voters. They won, 234 to 60.

Part V will be on March 29, 2010

My sources include:

Friday, March 19, 2010

Book Review: The Joy of Home Winemaking

The first thing I ever brewed up came from The Joy of Home Winemaking by Terry Garey, published in 1996 Garey has a simplified recipe using minimal wine making equipment and juice concentrate to make a simple apple wine. It kind of lets you get a feel for everything without spending a lot of money, though later, you wonder if it was really wise to start brewing without a hydrometer.

While there are other fruit wine making books out there, this is the one I recommend for beginners. Garey organizes the book quite well and has a good tone. Experimenting is encouraged, yet the basics are not ignored. Recipes include blueberry wine, canned cherry wine, elderberry wine, potato wine, mint wine, herb wine, grain wines, and an onion wine that Garey admits to never having made. Garey adds a personal touch to recipes, commenting on how the author likes to make it, but suggestions on how you could make it to fit your tastes. This book is a how to with recipe guidelines, and I think that is why I like it.

Geary also has included a section of drinks to make from your wine, making liquors from spirits, an appendix on troubleshooting problems, and a conversion chart from metric, bottle sizes, and wine supply stores. There is an index of topics, and an index of wine recipes.

Take a look at Garey’s website.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wine Thief

No, I am not going to talk about a person who steals wine today. I am going to talk about a device that winemakers uses pull a sample out of their vats and barrels called a wine thief.

A wine thief is a glass tube with two open ends. As a child, did you ever suck pop up a straw and then replace your finger over the top and then pull the straw out? The pop was trapped in straw. Well, a wine thief works in the same way. The thief is put into the wine, allowed to fill from one end to the level of the wine it is in, and then a finger is used to plug the other end. The wine thief can then be removed and aimed at a container. The moment you remove your finger, the wine pours out.

Wine thiefs are very handy at getting a sample from the middle of the wine batch for testing with a hydrometer or for tasting, and are easier to use than hooking up a siphon. They come in many different sizes, so they can range from $8 to $30.

However, it is possible to buy a turkey baster and use it to pull samples as long as that is the only thing you use it on. Do not use it on meat and then on wine again!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Why You Can’t Reuse Lees from Cider or Wine

Lees are the sediment of dead yeast in the bottom of cider and wine, which is called trub in beer making.

There is a temptation in home brewing to use yeast in one successful batch in another successful batch, especially if it was fermented with wild yeasts. In fact, reusing trub is sometimes practiced in the beer making world. In the wine and cider world, it is discouraged.

First off, wine or cider that is allowed to sit on the lees, that is, not rack the wine or cider off, can develop off flavors from the lees. Another reason is that, unknown to the brewer, the first batch could have bacteria that is then transferred over to the new batch, which is part of the reason beer makers “scrub” their trub between batches. Since yeast is so cheap to buy, the risk involved really isn’t a cost savings.

The biggest reason that beer makers can reuse trub and wine and cider makers can’t is the timeline. Beer can be brewed and ready to bottle in as little as six weeks, and is not really seasonally dependent. Wine and cider are both started in the fall with the harvest. This means that the lees would have to be saved for an entire year! That is plenty of time for sicknesses, bacteria, and off flavors to develop in the lees. The short brew period of beer allows for continuous use a few times before new yeast is pitched.

For more information on reusing lees in cider making, read the following discussions on the Cider Workshop:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Picking a Yeast

For my first batch of wine, the gal at the homebrew store handed me Red Star Premier Cuvée yeast. Later, I asked around, and was told that Montrachet yeast ate through concrete. This last time, on a whim, I bought Lalvin 71B-1122 and K1-V116. How are they different? Why are they different? What is the best one for the batch I am making/going to make? Answer is – look for the tables.

There are probably hundreds of manufactured yeasts out there, and each one is better for a particular type of ferment style (beer, wine, cider, mead, sake, etc), a preferred temperature which they ferment at, at what point they die because the alcohol poisons them, the flavors they give off, and how vigorous they are.

I have made a list of websites that help when it comes to picking out yeast for wine, mead, and cider.

Other good places for research include yeast maker’s websites, such as Wyeast, White Labs, and Lalvin.

Another thing to consider when shopping for yeast is how available it is to you. It might be difficult to buy some yeasts in your area and/or have them shipped to you.

Of course, purchasing yeast isn’t always necessary. Grape wine makers rarely use commercial yeast, and instead let the natural yeast that have deposited on the grapes do the fermenting. The same is true for apples if they are not washed prior to pressing. However, if potassium metasulfite is used on the juice to kill bacteria, it may inadvertently kill the weaker, less populated wild yeasts. Options are take a risk that the wild yeast will survive, not use potassium metasulfite and risk bacteria growth, or go ahead and use a manufactured yeast, or at least have it as a backup.

Monday, March 15, 2010

History of Cider Part III: The Decline of Cider in Europe

In Europe, cider began its rise in 1200 with a golden age during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, where cider was sometimes used as payment until 1878.

  • Watson laments that the popularity of cider in England is what lead to its decline in the middle part of the eighteenth century. Cider making was a rural practice by farmers for home and local use, or it was made by estates with money and resources to experiment with apple varieties and production techniques. However, the Industrial Revolution shifted the farmers to the cities, causing the quality of English cider to drop despite demand reaming the same. As a result, “Unscrupulous cider merchants began buying large volumes of sweet, unfermented juice and producing adulterated or watered-down beverages that resembled real cider in name only. The “Devonshire colic,” a palsy-like sickness caused by lead leaching into cider from the joints and pipes of manufacturing equipment, further damaged cider’s reputation, as did the rough drink known as scrumpy, which might be made from rotten fruit, other fruit juices, surplus vegetables, sugars – just about anything that would ferment. The new British ales like Whitbread, Bass, and Guinness were seen, quite rightly, as being more healthful that these degraded ciders, which came to be considered a beverage of the urban lower classes as a cheap, quick way to get drunk.”
  • At the end of the century, plant breeder Thomas Andrew Knight published Treatise on Ciders which he followed up with Pomona Herefordiensis in 1811. They included information on all the cider apples and perry pears growing in Hereford. Knight had begun to make crosses between apple varieties to help genetically prevent apple canker. His progress sparked new interest in fruit breeding programs.
  • About the same time, wooden screws were being replaced in the cider press by cast iron screws, along with the development of the much smaller scatter mill for the old horse-drawn mechanical means of crushing apples. This allowed for the development of the travelling cider maker, who went from farm to farm crushing apples.
  • 1837: an excerpt on growing and making cider and perry from British Husbandry; Exhibiting the Farming Practice in Various Parts of the United Kingdom, Volume the Second.
  • As England became more industrialized, cider went from being made on the small scale to industrial production lines. Herefordshire had more than a dozen cider factories open between 1870 and 1900. During this period, in 1887, H.P. Bulmer Ltd opened, which is now the largest cider maker in the world with seventeen brands. Half of what they produce is consumed in Britain.
  • Real Cider states, “The latest chapter in the story of cider really belongs to the growth of a few large manufactures of cider. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, in response to the massive urbanisation occurring and a commensurate decrease in the numbers of agricultural labourers due to the scale of mechanisation, the needs and the purposes behind the old farm-based tradition of making cider steadily began to die. The process continued well into the twentieth century, and saw perhaps another dramatic stage in decline with that great turning point in British society – the First World War. After that, while the tradition lingered on here and there, and even survived in isolated spots beyond the Second World War, to all intents and purposes the tradition was dead. And yet, perhaps we are already witnessing something of the proverbial phoenix. While it is certainly the factory-produced cider which dominates the market today, perhaps the renaissances of interest in real cider which has arisen in the last few years will, in the forms of the small-scale producer, and the ‘domestic’ and community production of cider come to represent the vigor of a new variety grafted onto old stock” (page 12).
  • Yet, Real Cider credits that same time period of decline with better documentations, “Chronicling the rich traditions surrounding every aspect of cider in Britain didn’t really begin until our own century, and even then most has been accomplished since the Second World War. It draw upon a rich seam of archival material, mostly from the nineteenth century, corresponding to a time when the society slowly became more literate, increasingly industrialized (bringing profound changes to people’s lives and customs) and saw the advent of such inventions as photography. In that century, and even up to the First World War and beyond, we discover it was made largely for consumption by the farm household and farm workers – so basic and unobtrusive a practice that it rarely even entered into the farm accounts” (page 11).
  • Lea points out that not everything about the Industrial Revolution was bad for cider popularity, “The growth of rail transport and bottling technology, however, enabled a new market to be established in towns and cities throughout the 20th century, dominated by a few large manufacturers. From the 1990's there has been a new divergence, between the mass-market producers on the one hand and the smaller specialist producers on the other.”

Part VI will be on March 22, 2010

My sources include:

Friday, March 12, 2010

Book Reivew - Cider: Hard and Sweet

Ben Watson released Cider: Hard and Sweet: History, Traditions & Making Your Own, 2nd Edition in 2009, ten years after it originally came out. This book is more like Annie Proulx and Lew Nichols’ Cider: Making, Using & Enjoying Sweet & Hard Cider in that it contains more information beyond making cider, including:
  • Much more information about the kinds of apples used for cider, especially in North America
  • Pollinating apple blossoms
  • A small section of “Some Commercial Yeast Strains Used for Cidermaking”.
  • A larger section is devoted to styles of ciders and regional influences on them.
  • How to evaluate a cider when tasting.
  • Recipes on cooking with cider, including Wassail, pork chops, desserts, and much more.

Watson lives in New Hampshire, so this book has a little more resources for North American readers. The back of this book also includes several pages on websites, equipment sales, organizations, suppliers, festivals and competitions, and apple and pear tree suppliers.

Andrew Lea does have a few comments on his website about this book, saying, “"CIDER - Hard and Sweet" by Ben Watson - ISBN 978-0881508192 - The Countryman Press, Woodstock, Vermont. The second edition of this book was published in 2008 and is an excellent practical guide similar in concept to the Proulx and Nichols volume... It's written by an American author from a US perspective but with a fair bit of European background and some interesting historical detail too.”

All in all, I like Ben Watson’s book slightly better than Annie Proulx and Lew Nichols. However, this book barely touches upon establishing an orchard, making the other book still very valuable in my home library.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cider Review – Blue Mountain Farmstead Cider

Blue Mountain Cider Company is a little cidery located in Milton-Freewater, OR, across the boarder from Walla Walla, WA. Blue Mountain Cider was formed in 2003 by Ron and Gretchen Brown, who had apple growing experience, Mike Swinnerton, who had brewing experience, and Robbi Ebel, who was good at keeping books and marketing. They make six ciders – Eden Ridge, Farmstead, Dry Creek, Cherry, Cranberry, and Raspberry. In my own market, I typically only see the Farmstead, Cherry, and Cranberry.

One unique thing about Blue Mountain Company is that they bottle their ciders in clear wine bottles with screw tops instead of the usual brown 22oz or 12oz beer bottles that most cideries use. It does help them promote that they consider themselves crafting an artisan-style cider, but they do share their facility with Watermill Winery, allowing the sharing of equipment and a cost savings.

Farmstead Cider is pale yellow cider that seems to be well balanced, but it isn’t exactly rememberable. A beginner drinking it might find it a little on the dry side. Blue Mountain Cider describes the Farmstead Cider, “This crisp hard cider was created using our fermented ‘five-apple’ blend made from apples grown in the Pacific Northwest. It is a semi-sweet cider and is one of our most refreshing ciders.”

They do add a dash of carbonation to the 6.5% beverage, which retails for about $11 a 750 mL bottle.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Saké One

Last Saturday, my husband and I went to Saké One, the only American owned saké production facility in the United States located in Forest Grove, Oregon. We were told that there are three more Japanese owned saké facilities in California.

I’ve only had saké two other times in my life. I told Tony, our pourer, that I am a huge James Bond fan, and in the movie You Only Live Twice, Bond (played by Sean Connery) goes to Japan, where he has saké and declares it perfect at 98.6⁰ F, or body temperature. Tony said that is indeed how they serve saké in Japan, but here in the United States, most of the time it is served slightly chilled, between 40⁰ to 50⁰ F. He said that warmed saké in the US is usually a sign of an inferior saké, as heating it masks flavors, much like chilling a beer masks flavors.

Saké is made from rice, but it takes a mold called Koji to convert the rice sugars into something edible by yeast. From what Tony said, the rice is sometimes polished before processing, it is boiled in water to make a brew like beer, but one consumes it like wine. It is drinkable in about six months, but it does not hold in a cellar more than two years.

I found that I was very neutral to saké, neither liking it nor disliking it. The entire flavor for saké is in the middle of the taste, as it then fades away. There is really no aftertaste. Since saké is new to me, I had a hard time keeping track of all the subtitle differences between the different styles of saké. Some of that was because that was the first time I was hearing words like Futsu, Genshu, Honjozo, and more.

Tony did point out to us that most saké has a dryness rating ranging from +8 (driest) to -8 (sweetest). Of course, all taste is subjective, but this does help when picking out a saké. They did have a couple of sakés that were back sweetened with various juices, including pear, raspberry, plum, and coconut. These were all very tasty, and I could see using the coconut infused saké for a shrimp marinade or drinking it with Caribbean or spicy foods.

Edit: When we were there, we did the food and saké sampler. They paired different sakés with non-sushi food, such as almonds, brie, prosciutto, and even a chocolate dipped fortune cookie. It helped us taste what other foods beyond sushi saké could be paired with. It was very nice.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

HOS's Fruit Propagation Fair and Scion Exchange Review

On Saturday, we went out to the Washington County Fairgrounds in Hillsboro, OR to the Home Orchard Society’s Fruit Propagation Fair and Scion Exchange to pick up my pre-ordered custom apple trees. Since apple trees do not resemble their parents when grown from seed (find link), so cuttings are taken and grafted onto root stock. This is what I picked up.

The scion exchange was a huge part of this fair. When people were recently pruning their trees, they cut of the scions needed to make custom grafts. There where hundreds of buckets there full of these scion cuttings for people to take and graft onto new rootstock. It was quite impressive how many scion varieties they had.

As we were leaving, we saw a man carrying a bucket full of scions! I had to ask how many acres he had, to which he said 45. I asked how many scions he got, and he said enough to be playing with sticks for awhile. However, since the scions were free, and he would be paying only a small fee for rootstock, he was probably paying no more than one quarter of the price of what it would cost to buy trees from a nursery. Granted, he has to do a lot of work grafting, but that is a lot of savings for 45 acres.

Monday, March 8, 2010

History of Cider Part II: Rise of Apple and Cider Popularity in Europe

In my previous post, I outline the development of the apple and how the Romans spread agriculture technology beneficial to growing apples, and how they saw various cultures making cider. Continuing the story:

  • While most of Western Europe went though the Dark Ages after the fall of Rome, apple tree horticulture was kept alive by monastery gardens and by the Islamic Moors in Spain, a region that had been producing sidra before the birth of Christ.
  • Apples would have been widely grown in the cooler northwest regions of Europe, including northern Spain, Germany, Normandy and Brittany in France, and southern and western counties of England where grape vines would not have thrived. It is in these regions that cider developed.
  • Andrew Lea states, “… [cider] became well-established in Normandy and Brittany in early medieval times (from 800 AD onwards).” It was the Norman conquest of Britain in 1066 which reintroduced apples and apple care to the island, in which cider shortly became the second most popular drink after ale, and it would be used to help pay tithes and rents. Ben Watson gives the following example, “A deed of 1204, stipulated that the tenancy of the manor of Runham in Norfolk would bring in an annual rent of ‘200 Pearmaines [apple] and four hogshead of Pear-maine cyder,’ payable to the Exchequer every Michaelmas (September 29) by Robert de Evermore, the lord of the manor. A hundred years later, seventy-four of the eighty parishes in West Sussex were paying their church tithes in cider” (pages 19-20).
  • Before the twelfth century, Watson noted, beer was a more popular drink in Normandy, a region now known for its cider. Cider was only consumed when there was a shortage of beer. Watson explained, “Not until the fourteenth century did cider become as popular and available as beer and wine in Normandy. By 1371, however, almost as much cider was being sold at Caen as wine, and some of it was being shipped up the Seine to the Paris market… In 1532 Francois I toured Normandy and order several barrels of cider made from the Pomme d’Espice apple for himself.”
  • It was a Norman by the name of Julien le Paulmier who wrote De Vino et Pomaceo in 1588, which he listed eighty two varieties of cider apples, and helped to promote the popularity of cider in France.
  • When hops were introduced to England in the sixteenth century, cider lost some of its popularity, according to Watson, due to improved flavors of ale. However, Richard Harris, a fruiterer to Henry VIII, advanced apple growing in England by importing French apples that were both suitable for dessert and cider making.
  • Lea adds, “In the 17th and 18th centuries it seemed to have reached something of a zenith, with cider being compared to the best French wines and exported from the West Country to London. A number of manuals on the subject were published at this time, including Worlidge's famous 'Vinum Britannicum - a treatise on Cider and Perry'. John Evelyn, the diarist, politician and arboriculturalist, published his 'Pomona' in 1670, which discusses fruit growing in general and cider making in particular, and includes contributions from authors throughout the country. This book (part of his epic 'Sylva') went through several editions and is still available in facsimile today.” Amateur cider makers during this time were keeping better records, which allowed them to duplicate cider quality repeatedly.
  • “Lord Scudamore,” Watson says, “is credited with having bottled cider as early as the 1640s at Home Lacy, at a time when almost all cider was stored in wooden barrels and drawn off ‘on draft’ as needed. Scudamore made use of the new, stronger, coke-fired English glass bottles that had been recently introduced. The slight fermentation that took place in the bottled released carbon dioxide gas, which produced a sparkling drink and helped preserve the cider better than could half-emptied wooden casks or barrels, where aerobic organisms came in contact with the cider and often spoiled it” (page 21).
  • In England’s West Counties, cider apples grew easily in the climate and soils, and was very popular in the seventieth century. They were low maintenance crops that allowed for cattle grazing among them, and did not require harvesting until October or later after other crops had been harvested. The apples could be pressed for cider, and the left over apples then fed to livestock. During this time, there was a shortage of burnable wood to brew ale in England, allowing cider to be the most produced beverage.
  • During the 18th centuries, Watson notes, agricultural societies formed and sponsored prizes for cider competitions. In 1863, phylloxera, an insect related to aphids, struck grapevines, so until the vineyards were reestablished on insect-resistant American rootstocks, cider grew in popularity. By the nineteenth century, Watson says, “the French government estimated more than one million persons were engaged in cidermaking; by 1902 the nation was producing around 647 millions gallons commercially (that is, not counting what farmers were making and drinking themselves).”
  • Over in England during this same time, Daniel Defoe stated that there were ten to twenty thousand hogsheds of cider, meaning that there was about one to two thousand gallons being exported from Exeter in the 1720s. Photographs were taken at harvest showing the workers drinking cider, which was also part of their labor payment until it was declared illegal in 1878.

Part III will be posted on March 15, 2010

My sources include:

Friday, March 5, 2010

Book Review - Cider: Making, Using and Enjoying Sweet and Hard Cider

Literary writer Annie Proulx teamed up with Lew Nichols to write Cider: Making, Using & Enjoying Sweet & Hard Cider in 1980, and they released their 3rd Edition in 2003. The first half of the book is devoted to cider making, but expands on some topics, including:
  • Suggestions on what to do with the crushed and pressed apples, called pomace. They suggest livestock feed, spreading it on a field to create some seedling stock, weed killer, or compost.
  • Discussion on the different kinds of presses, barrels, a way to filter cider, how to install champagne corks, pictures of riddling and preparations for degorging
  • They show a suggested cider log.

The second half of this book has topics barely touched by Craft Cider Making by Andrew Lea and not at all in Real Cidermaking On a Small Scale by Michael Pooley and John Lomax. This includes:

  • A chapter on apples for cider – what makes a good cider apple? What breeds of cider apples grow where? It also includes several pages on attributes of North American cider apples.
  • An intense chapter on having a home cider orchard, including how root stock affects tree size, how much room each rootstock and tree need, and how much fruit each tree size will produce and how much cider that might yield. They talk about climate zones, the orchard site, soil, planning, caring for the trees, pruning, apple diseases and pests, spraying, and finally harvesting.
  • A large section on making vinegar and hypothetically making apple jack and brandy, including a diagram for a stove top still, along with providing alcohol making laws in the United States.

The appendix is small compared to the other books. They do provide plans for a press, places to get kits, and a few websites.

Andrew Lea does have a few comments on his website about this book, saying, "CIDER - Making, using and enjoying sweet and hard cider" by Annie Proulx and Lew Nichols - ISBN 1-58017-520-1 - Storey Publishing, Massachusetts. This is the third edition published in 2003. I liked the first edition (1980) rather better - it had more pictures and drawings (and a personal acknowledgement to me and all my Long Ashton colleagues, which got dropped due to a typo in the second edition and was not restored in the third!) But the third edition does contain plans for a press similar to the one I made for myself."

I should note that Proulx wrote the first edition of this book with Lew Nichols in 1980, which was her first book. Since then, she has written several novels, including the short story “Brokeback Mountain”, which was adapted into an award-winning motion picture. I bring this up because sometimes this book gets a little poetic in the word choices. For instance, being able to tell if a cider is naturally carbonated, it reads, “Naturally effervescent ciders will produce a vigorous explosion of froth as the liquid first hits the bottom of the glass, then slows, with the smaller bubbles merging to form larger silver spheres that break free from the bottom and sides to rush to the surface, where they pop… Artificially carbonated ciders have uniform-sized bubbles that maintain their size as they rise to the surface…” The first sentence was an over the top description, while the second one was hum drum and normal.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Home Orchard Society

The Home Orchard Society is a group of hobby fruit tree gardeners based out of the Portland metro area in Oregon. They offer advice, classes, and much more to people who grow fruit trees in their back yards. They have a forum where anyone can ask a question. I became a member this year, and I now receive their quarterly newsletter and discounts to events.

Unfortunately, I found out about the Home Orchard Society too late to attend the fruit tasting every year, including lots of apples. However, I was able to place a custom apple tree order by the end of December 2009, and we will pick them up this weekend at the HOS Fruit Propagation Fair and Scion Exchange. Part of the reason I did this is because I wanted a Dabinett apple tree, and those are kind of hard to find. I had been pointed to a man in New York who would do custom grafts, but I was a little worried about shipping, and I also figure that a tree grafted out here would be more adjusted to my climate. Maybe those are false fears.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wine Aroma Wheel

There are so many smells with grape wines that in 1990, Professor Ann C. Noble designed a “Wine Aroma Wheel” while she worked at UC Davis Enology Department. It is copyrighted, but a quick search on Google images will turn it up.

The wheel is broken into three sections. The first section is the over arching umbrella – does it smell floral, spicy, fruity, vegetative, earthy, chemical, oxidized, wood, caramelized, or microbiological. From there, these groups are broken down into subcategories, the more generalized scents that novices should pick up. For instance, fruity is broken down into citrus, berry, tree fruit, tropical fruit, estery, dried fruit, and labrusca. Some things like floral are not broken down into further groups. The last category is for the more advanced, as it talks about specific smells. For instance, a novice might detect citrus notes, but someone more advanced may comment that it is more like grapefruit, lemon, or orange.

Downloading the user guide, I am definitely one of those people it describes as one user who would benefit from it. “Novice tasters often complain that they ‘cannot smell anything’ or can’t think of a way to describe the aroma of wine.” That’s why when I first saw the wine wheel at a winery just outside of Leavenworth, WA, I decided to spend the $5 to buy it. Admittedly, I haven’t used it much since getting Bachhanales since that allows me to smell things rather than remind me of different words to possibly use. However, a wine wheel is cheaper and much more portable than Bachhanales.

I was out at a grocery store that was sampling various olive oils one day, and they had a wheel for olive oil! Apparently the concept has been used on other food items, like beer, chocolate, coffee, cheese, etc. I’ve been trying to figure out how to convert the 163 apple aromas determined by Long Aston Research Station in 1975 into a wheel.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Smelling Wine

For my birthday a few months ago, my husband got me Bachhanales, which is a wine tasting guide and game. Whenever I drink wine, I never quite get all the smells that people say that are there. In the 1995 movie French Kiss, Meg Ryan’s American character goes into boyhood room of Kevin Kline’s French character. He has her drink the wine from his family’s vineyard, which she uses human characteristics such as sophistication to describe. He then shows her a box of various dried herbs and plant material in bottles he collected as a boy, has her smell some of them, and then has her drink the wine again. This time she identifies things such as lavender and mushrooms in the wine. He says that these things are all around in the air and the grapes absorb it into the wine.

This scene always stuck with me. I don’t really taste many differences in wine, and sometimes I am frustrated that I can tell a difference but lack the vocabulary to describe what I was tasting. That is why my husband bought me Bachhanales. Bachhanales is this kit of different smells that are common in wine. In theory, it teaches you how to identify what kind of wine it is, how old it is, where it might have come from, and a few other things like balance in wine.

The first wine I tried it with was a Syrah from Australia, in which I detected a strong smell of licorice and a little bit of elderberry. Afterwards, I have been able to smell licorice in all but one Syrah that I have encountered.

This past weekend, we went back out to The Rusty Grape Vineyard, and we took Bachhanales with us. We sat at one of their little café tables, sampling wine, and smelling samples out of the Bachhanales. Jeremy, owner of the Rusty Grape, poured us two different red wines for us to figure out. It was actually pretty hard, and we kept second guessing ourselves, but in the end, I got both of them right, but I felt completely overwhelmed by the possibilities.

Monday, March 1, 2010

History of Cider Part I: Early Development

When I sat down to do research regarding the history of cider, two things became quite evident. First, I could not write a history about cider without talking about the history of the apple, and second, that I was not going to do justice to the topic. What I can provide is an outline to whet your appetite to learn more:

  • The first apples probably appeared in the valleys of the Tien Shan Mountains, which lie between China, Kazakhstan, and Kirghizstan. From there, they spread and evolved around the Caspian Sea into domestic apple’s main ancestor, M. sieversii.
  • There are Paleolithic cave art showing wild apples that date from between 35,000 and 8000 B.C.E. In Anatolia, archeologists have dated carbonized remains of apples dating back to 6500 B.C.E., and also in Neolithic lake settlements from occupied between 2000 and 1600 B.C.E. in what is today Switzerland and Italy. This is all evidence that apples were in use.
  • Apples appear many times in Greek mythology. It was an apple that started the Trojan War, Heracles had to retrieve a golden apple from the Tree of Life which was planted as a wedding present from Mother Earth to Zeus and Hera, and Atalanta was bested in a foot race because she stopped to pick up three golden apples. Even Homer wrote about apples in the Odyssey.
  • Because writing had not been invented, we do not know who or when humans discovered cider. However, since apples will ferment due to wild yeasts, the discovery could be as old as apples themselves, and would have been repeatedly experienced in many locations.
  • Ben Watson reports, “The first recorded references to cider also date back to Roman times. In 55 B.C.E. Julius Caesar began his conquest of Britain, where his soldiers found the Celtic inhabitants fermenting the juice of native crab apples to make an alcoholic beverage.” The Romans were able to educate the Celts in better agricultural ways, including the importation of other apple varieties. The Roman’s vast network allowed for the sharing of materials and ideas across much of Europe and the regions around the Mediterranean Sea. For instance, they learned from the Greeks or Syrians the methods of grafting and pruning and would have taught the Celts.
  • Watson notes on page 18, “By the second and third centuries A.D., Roman authorities reported that various European peoples were making a number of more or less ciderlike drinks (pomorum), created from different types of fruit, that were reportedly similar to grape wines and in some cases superior to them. In the fourth century, Palladius wrote that the Romans themselves were making perry, or pear wine, and Columella listed thirty-eight different varieties of pears and twenty-four varieties of apples. Around the same time, Saint Jerome used the term sicera to describe fermented apple juice, from which we derive the word cider. Sikera was actually a Greek word meaning simply “intoxicating beverage,” and it comes in turn from the Hebrew word sekar (which some people also believe to be the root of the slang term schnockered.)”

To be continued on March 8, 2010…

My sources include: