I’m kinda picky about my apple cider. Now, note here that cider in my world is technically apple juice. No fermentation (though also no cooking or pasteurization), and it’s of no use to sorority girls hoping to get wasted.
It doesn’t look like that stuff that comes out of a juice box. It’s not pale yellow and clear. It’s a ruddy russet brown, opaque, and there is sediment at the bottom. That, my friends, is the good stuff.
Cider, to me, is inextricably linked with cold, wet, and mud. When I was little, I remember going out to New Jerusalem in the fall. Inevitably, it was rainy and cold, and from the car and horse-and-buggy traffic (the cider mill was run by Mennonites), the whole area was a giant mud bog. (Like many farms, this place had a long, unpaved driveway, and a large, unpaved farmyard/parking area.)
Chad and I usually stayed in the car and watched the action, and Mom or Dad or both got their assorted jugs filled. And then we’d slosh and squish our way out of there and head home.
Cider doesn’t keep long. It’s pretty much just fruit trying to rot like any other. I am not a fan of semi-fermented cider, which an ex-housemate liked to describe as “zippy” (he liked it that way). I also don’t like when the juice has been cooked for canning or what have you. I don’t think the addition of spices adds that much, and it changes the flavour and makes it kind of flat. And a weird colour closer to what Mom likes to call “baby calf shit”.
As with all important things, my Dad has developed a system around the annual procurement of cider. When we moved up to Grey County, he found out that there was a cider mill over in Carlsruhe (a lot of the places up there have German names — it’s traditionally as German an area as KW once was).
And so over time Dad figured out which were the best containers to use. He had this white plastic drum, essentially, with a spout, which was about twice the size of those industrial-size paint buckets. What it was originally for, I’ve no idea, but I spent plenty of time holding jugs and a funnel so we could pour out the cider from the drum.
We also learned about how the juice tastes year to year, depending on what the weather’s been like, what the juice tastes like at various points during cider season, and what blend of apples was used in the pressing (since not all varieties ripen at the same time).
Don’t bother with cider in September or early October. It’s thin and weak. The best stuff starts towards later October, and, if it’s a good year, the stuff in early November is spectacular. Not the very latest stuff, though, since that’s the tail end of the crop and they’re just throwing the lips and assholes and everything else from the apples in there.
Of course, time flies, and the Carlsruhe mill closed when the owner of the farm retired. I don’t know if my parents have found a new mill up there or not. I know they make plenty of applesauce and whatnot from the apples Dad grows, but even my parents don’t have a cider press. 🙂
I get my cider at the St. Jacobs Farmers Market. Typically from Martin’s (they’re the biggest apple producers in the area). Four litres will cost $5, and if you know when to buy it, it’s good stuff. I bought some this morning, and it’s just coming into prime tastiness. There’s a little more depth and sweetness to come, but this is quite palatable, and totally tastes like fall.
Plus, the Market is paved everywhere, so the only real inconvenience is having to get up at 7am on a Saturday to go get it. 🙂