Ok, for some, maybe a lot of you, the idea of cider apple varieties is an entirely new concept. You know about dessert/modern/fresh eating apples. Fresh market apples are those that you see everyday at the grocery store, local orchard or farmer’s market. They are sweet, tart, a combo of tart and sweet and are delicious to eat.
Cider apples are much harder to find. In fact, chances are you may never see one in real life, but they DO exist. Many cider apple trees were torn out during prohibition and never planted again. Recently, they have been making a comeback due to people’s interest in cider, real cider, not the overly carbonated apple juice kind. Finding them and growing them has taken some time, over 7 years for us by the time we find them, grafted them, plant them and then wait until there is enough fruit to harvest. It take commitment to grow an orchard.
Why were they all torn out? Why not just keep them and eat them? Because they taste terrible. I mean it, they are TERRIBLE. Like, spit it immediately out of your month, terrible. Some are little balls of tannin, others pure acid and some a happy medium but really there are none that I would want to eat. So when prohibition started, there was no use for cider apples as no one wanted terrible tasting apples and they were torn out and they were replaced with eating apples or not at all in some cases. Ok, to be fair, some cider apples you can eat, but fresh market apples are much better.
So why are we going through the effort of growing them? Am I just crazy? Well, I mean that is a possibility but really it’s because they help make really good
cider. Think of it this way, you can make wine from the grapes at the grocery store but are you really going to get a good wine from them? Probably not. Same thing with apples. You can make a good cider out of certain apples, but will it be a true traditional cider? No.
So what is so special about them?? Apart from being terrible to eat and ugly to look at? There are a few differences but the main ones are that many contain tannins much like wine grape varieties. The tannins give you the fuzzy, dry mouthfeel and helps to age the cider. And some cider apples are so acidic that it makes your mouth water. The acid helps to balance out the finished cider.
The interesting thing with cider made with cider apples, is that they get better with age. Not a joke. Much like wine, they age well. There have been some less than successful batches which we had serious doubts about being able to drink them So I left them to age longer because frankly, they couldn’t get any worse. But shockingly they GOT better, and more importantly drinkable. The downside is, that it took up room in my cellar but at least it paid off and they are drinkable.