Apples & Pears
Cider apples are a group of apple cultivars grown for their use in the production of cider. Cider apples are distinguished from “cookers” and “eaters”, or dessert apples, by their bitterness or dryness of flavour, qualities which make the fruit unpalatable but can be useful in cidermaking.
In the United Kingdom the Long Ashton Research Station categorised cider apples in 1903 into four main types according to the proportion of tannins and malic acid in the fruit. For cider production it is important that the fruit contains high sugar levels which encourage fermentation and raise the final alcohol levels. Cider apples therefore often have higher sugar levels than dessert and cooking apples. It is also considered important for cider apples to contribute tannins, which add depth to the finished cider’s flavour.
Perry has been common for centuries In England and is an alcoholic drink made from fermented pears, similar to the way cider is made from apples. A slow growing tree, the large heritage varieties are treasured by small scale perry makers who often don’t own their own orchards.
How is Cider & Perry Made?
Cider is made by fermenting the juice of freshly squeezed apples (or perry pears) with the help of natural yeasts in the fruit.
Here’s how it works: First the apples are picked and washed, then they are ‘milled’ to a pulp before being formed layers wrapped in cloth, known as ‘cheeses’. The layers are then compressed under high pressure to extract the juice, which is stored in large fermenting tanks for a full 6 months to allow all of the sugars to turn to alcohol.
The cider or perry is then bottled as a still product, or it can be bottle conditioned (which is lightly sparkling after a further period of maturing) or lightly carbonated to make it sparkling.
Ice cider is the cider equivalent of ice wine: a fermented beverage made from the juice of frozen apples. Similar to ice wine, the use of frozen apples concentrates the natural sugars in the apples, resulting in a higher alcohol content than cider made by traditional methods.
Distillation is the process of converting a liquid into vapour that is subsequently condensed back to liquid form. Cider is distilled in stills, the resulting clear spirit, known as Eau de Vie or ‘water of life’ is the colourless fruit brandy which can be barrelled to produce Cider Brandy.
Keeving is an artisan method for making naturally sweetened cider. Only cider apples are used; no sugar, no water, nothing else. The keeving process involves the formation of a pectin gel, which floats to the top of fresh pressed apple juice in translucent tanks.