Apple foraging among New York’s cider producers has slowly grown from a grassroots practice to become a regionally important phenomenon. Dr. Maria Kennedy of Rutgers University and Dr. Greg Peck of Cornell University are beginning a collaborative research project in August of 2022 to understand the impacts of fruit foraging on rural communities, cider quality, and the State’s cider industry.
The researchers will collect survey and interview data from a broad range of participants to assess the range of foraging practices throughout the state. Our project will primarily engage with people who forage apples for commercial cider production, but anyone who forages for apples is welcome to fill out a brief online survey to submit information to the project. The survey link can be found at https://airtable.com/shr1IJQIBAPqWy2nN.
Researchers may contact individuals directly for further information or participation in the project. Fruit and leaf samples will be collected from a selected number of participants for lab analysis, which will investigate the qualities of the fruits being collected by foragers and determine whether the trees used for cider production are known varieties or wild seedlings.
Dr. Kennedy, an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of American Studies at Rutgers University, has conducted ethnographic research on the cider industry in the United Kingdom and the United States. Her academic training is based in folklore studies, cultural geography, media studies, and public humanities. She has also worked in public arts organizations in New York, New Jersey, and Indiana. Contact Maria for questions about setting up an interview or queries about the general purpose and social impacts of the project: email@example.com.
Dr. Peck is an Associate Professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science Horticulture Section at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. For over a decade he has studied cider apple production and genetics. He also co-teaches a cider production course to more than 100 undergraduate students each spring. More information about Dr. Peck’s work can be found at: https://hardcider.cals.cornell.edu/. Contact Greg for questions about the horticultural and genetic aspects of the project: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve been looking forward to Cider Week Finger Lakes 2016 all year, and here’s why: I’m hoping Cider Week 2016 will be an opportunity to learn more about the history of cider making and fruit growing from you, the public. The Finger Lakes Fruit Heritage Project is making its debut to ask what you know about the roles that orchards, cider, and fruit have played in our region’s heritage. I want to know about the old trees and orchards in your back yard, and the stories, anecdotes, experiences, and skills that are woven into the fabric of your fruit landscapes.
Cider Week has grown as our local agricultural entrepreneurs have rediscovered the craft of cider making and nurtured it in new and innovative directions. But cider was made in our region before, in the homes and on the farms of many people who settled the Finger Lakes region, travelling west from New England in search of better land. They planted fruit trees to supply their own families with food and beverage. And local people have made hard and sweet cider from them for generations. Keep your eyes peeled while you are driving through the countryside, and you might spot an old orchard you never noticed before.
Some of these old farm orchards still remain on our landscape today, and local cider makers, commercial and hobbyist, care for and use them, up to 150 years after they were originally planted.
What happened to these frontier farms? And the orchards that were an essential ingredient in their domestic economies? Some are still going, but many small hill farms that were unprofitable were abandoned during hard economic times. Some areas that were once farmed are now re-wilded as parks and reserves, like the Finger Lakes National Forest or the Connecticut Hill Wildlife Management Area. And some of them have long been sources for cider.
Carl States, whose father owned the States Cider Mill in Odessa, remembers how local people went foraging in the abandoned farm orchards on Connecticut Hill when he was growing up in the 1960s. They brought the apples to be pressed at his father’s cider mill, which was still being operated by another family into the early 1990s, when it finally closed down when new requirements for pasteurization were passed into law.
“Most of the old timers would bring plenty of apples, more that what they needed, and then Dad would buy what was left over with, or they would just take it home with them in gallons or give it away. Apples were pretty plentiful then. A lot of people when I was a kid – all the old orchards were still in production on Connecticut hill, because all the old farms were abandoned in the depression, but the orchards were still there. So you could go up and get all the apples you wanted for free – just go up and pick them.” – Carl States
A few local cider makers who are at the heart of Cider Week today, including Ian and Jackie Merwin of Black Diamond Farm, remember taking their apples to be pressed at States Cider Mill. Places like these are now receding into memory, but it is here where the connection between our modern Cider Revival and the local heritage of cider can be made.
In addition to celebrating our amazing local cider businesses, I hope Cider Week continues to grow in exploring the history of cider deep in our region’s past, and nurtures the growing networks of DIY enthusiasts, home brewers, gardeners, and farmers who are renewing the spirit of cider making and cider drinking as a part of everyday life.
This Cider Week, I am hoping you can help me document our cider history through events hosted by the Finger Lakes Fruit Heritage Project. This project, an initiative of the Folk Arts program at The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes, will explore the fruit heritage of our region and highlight the agricultural and culinary practices that have molded our landscape, from apple orchards, to peaches, cherries, berries, and of course, grapes. I’m hoping to find more evidence about the history of local cider culture, in your stories and photographs, and in the apples growing in your back yard or on your farm.
Cider Week is a celebration of an agricultural and culinary craft brought back to life. Our cider future looks amazingly bright, and new orchards are springing up to supply it. But there’s still much to learn about the cider past, and how it’s shaped our local landscape, culture, and palate. I hope you will join the Finger Lakes Fruit Heritage Project events to share your knowledge and connect our local cider history with our cider future.
The Finger Lakes Fruit Heritage Project is hosting three Documentation Days and one Apple Identification Day during Cider Week, and you are invited to come share your fruit stories and learn about their apples.
Documentation Days at the Elmira Wisner Market (September 29, 10am-2pm) and the Montour Falls Harvest Festival (October 1, 12pm-7pm) are an opportunity to stop by the Finger Lakes Fruit Heritage listening booth and share stories, photographs or documents for our archive of fruit heritage. Tell us about your memories of making cider, apple butter, pie, wine, preserves. Describe pruning, parties, people who were the local masters of theses crafts. Your stories will help us see the larger picture of fruit and cider in the Finger Lakes.
The Apple Identification and Documentation Day at Reisinger’s Apple Country (October 8, 9am – 12noon) invites the public to bring apples to be identified by our pomologist panel, including Dr. Greg Peck of Cornell University and John Reynolds of Blackduck Cidery. If you’ve been wondering what that old tree at the back of the property is, now is your chance to find out! Bring 3-5 apples from each tree you would like to identify. You can then log your finds and deposit any stories you have at the listening booth. For more information on directions and what to expect, visit http://www.earts.org/finger-lakes-fruit-events
These events are a project of The Folk Arts Program at The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes in collaboration with partners at Reisinger’s Apple Country, Schuyler County Cornell Cooperative Extension, Cornell University Department of Horticulture, and Montour Falls Public Library. This project is funded in part by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
Today, I want to talk about Belgian beer. I’ve been doing some travelling in Europe to attend a conference. Brussels happened to be the cheapest airport to fly into, which to me, was the universe telling me to go explore the history of my favorite beers. It might not be cider, but it is close, and I’ll explain why as we go.
I first learned to drink beer in Montreal, when I went to college. Not a bad place for beer – Quebec makes some great ones and is unapologetic about its drinking habits. The legal drinking age is still 18, and one of the dorms at the university is even named ‘Molson.’ I remember regularly quaffing Griffon and Boreal in smoky bars while discussing modernist Canadian poetry. So, beer was good, but still not something I found particularly exciting.
I really learned to love beer from a former boyfriend who was a bartender. We didn’t work out in the end. But, I did learn a lot about beer from him, and on his advice I tried for the first time things like Tripel Karmeliet, Veuuve, Trappists Rochefort, and kriek. I really loved the various tastes of Belgian beers – the light, floral, slightly spicy aromas and sour tastes. Trappists Rochefort had such a rich, smooth, malty sweetness. This was the kind of beer you could think about and talk about, the kind that turns you into a beer nerd – a delight for the senses rather than just something to thoughtlessly drain from your glass at a party.
I’d learned to love the tastes of Belgian beer over the years, but I didn’t know very much about it, so it was the perfect opportunity while in Brussels to take the Brussels Beer Tour. You could probably accomplish all the things on the tour on your own by tracking down all the locations and doing some background reading. But I only had 1 full day in Brussels, so the tour was a great way to get it all in at once, with a great guide. At 45 euros, it was a little pricey, but considering you get to taste 5 beers (probably a total volume of 3 pints) and a guided 3-4 hour tour with a very entertaining and witty guide, it was well worth it. We began the tour with a discussion of trappist beer in the oldest pub in Brussels, Au Bon Vieux Temps, serving beer since 1695.
For those who love traditional cider, I’d say learning about Belgian beer is a wonderful complement of knowledge, especially regarding the production methods, traditions, and tastes of open-fermented lambic. Lambic, I learned, is not just fruity beer. It is traditionally an open-fermented beer, meaning it is made without the use of commercial yeast. Traditional cider is made in a similar way, allowing the yeasts present in the air and the environment to inoculate the juice and begin the fermentation. Lambic is made in the winter, taking advantage of cold temperatures to quickly cool the wort after boiling it, to discourage bacterial growth end encourage ideal yeast inoculation from the air.
Of course, before Pasteur isolated yeast in the mid 19th century, all fermented beverages were made this way. So, as our tour guide reminded us while tasting the sour lambic, this is probably what all beer tasted like before the use of commercial yeast strains. The similarity of taste between lambic and farmhouse cider was quite striking – and the tour guide actually explicitly remarked on traditional cider as a taste comparison. Many of the folks on the tour found the sour lambic to be a challenging taste. Of course, I loved it! The sour fruity taste of traditional lambic is characteristic of the open fermentation process, and has nothing to do with added fruit, though fruit flavoured lambics, such as the famous kriek, also made.
We also had the opportunity to taste Kriek, made by inducing a second fermentation of lambic in the presence of sour cherries, as well as Gueuze, a blend of 1, 2 and 3 year old lambics. The younger lambic, not entirely fermented, induces a second fermentation in the bottle, creating a slight sparkle to the beer. This is where I experienced the true champagne of beer.
All of this, and much more, we learned during our tour of Canitillon, a traditional brewery within the city of Brussels. I met a very enthusiastic guy from Los Angeles who seemed to be a long-time follower of the brewery, who told me that the current owner’s father saved the brewery when all the rest in Brussels went under by selling door to door. Indeed, as we toured through the facility, our guide pointed out all the production machinery had been bought second-hand in the 1930s, some of it dating from the late 19th and early 20th century. The copper boiling vats and the enormous shallow copper pan where the wort is cooled quickly and exposed to the air for yeast inoculation were particularly impressive.
I don’t want to explain too much about lambic production, as it is all still mostly new to me. But there is something about open-fermentation that remains mysterious, magical, and unique among craft beers and ciders. This, to me, is the real taste of place – where the resident natural yeasts play just as big a part in terroir as soil type, fruit varieties, or traditional recipes.
What impresses me about quality open fermented drinks is the cooperation between the brewer / cider maker with his environment. Even though it happens spontaneously, the producer has to create the ideal conditions, so that the natural yeasts grow and undesirable organisms don’t take over.
All in all, the magic of open fermentation is something I hope more brewers experiment with. And Belgium? It was fantastic. I’d live in Brussels any day.
New York Cider Week is here! I rolled into the great state of New York after a lovely drive through New England on business, and I coasted down interstate 84 from Connecticut towards the Hudson Valley amidst a sea of red and gold leaves, stopping along the way for some farmstand fresh cider and donuts. In a way, this is home ground for me, at least in an ancestral-extended family sort of way. My extended family of great aunts, uncles, and second cousins lives right across the river from Beacon, and though I’ve never lived here myself, I’ve come out to visit over the years, making my way to the red brick house my ancestors built beside a mill stream, which is still inhabited by fellow Kennedys. I’ve always loved the Hudson Valley, and I’d love to have a reason to settle in here someday.
As I drove into the little town of Beacon, I was surprised to find a full Sunday afternoon street fair winding down. There were antique cars parked along the street for people to admire and bands playing. As I made it into the Artisan Wine Shop, I found an enthusiastic crowd of folks lining up for the free cider tasting. It was the last half hour before close, and the people behind the counter seemed pleasantly harried – they said they’d expected to be busy, but not THIS busy. I tasted Orchard Hill, Eden, Bellwether, and Eve’s Ice Cider. All very nice – I particularly liked the Bellwether “Heritage” which was a still version. Sometimes I think the American ciders get really carried away with carbonation, both bottle condition / champagne style and forced carbonation. Some of the really delicate and rich flavors are much more enjoyable in still cider, in my opinion. Carbonation can either hide mediocre cider or really enhance a lovely cider. But sometimes I think enthusiasm for carbonated flare gets in the way of really good flavour. Something to consider. I found that the Bellwether Legacy sparkling cider was nice, but the Heritage still cider was even nicer. The shopkeepers said they were hoping that the event would help promote hard cider for their customers, and it sure seemed like they were doing a good job. I found their selection of other ciders (beyond the special sampling selection for the afternoon tasting) to be really great. A fairly wide display of east coast and Hudson Valley ciders – more than I have yet seen elsewhere.
After making a rather eye-popping purchase (all in the name of research, my friends) I wandered over to the Chill Wine Bar, which was serving a few ciders as well. I opted for the Hudson Valley Farmhouse Cider from Breezy Hill Orchard. The wine shop had almost run out and didn’t have any left for sampling, so I was glad to get a chance to taste it at the bar. I’d noticed the bottles at the wine shop – growlers really – were bubbling away steadily, and the label indicated they should be refrigerated. I have never seen anyone sell cider that is clearly still fermenting before, so I was curious. I am almost certain it must have been pressed a few weeks ago – does anyone else drink cider this young? I admit I was perplexed. When I ordered it at the bar, I was surprised that it tasted almost exactly like sweet non-alcoholic cider, with a slight kick. I have never encountered a style like this before – especially in England where almost always cider is fermented over winter, ready at Christmas at the earliest and usually April or May. I would love some feedback. Is this a style or just an anomalous product? When I asked the shopkeepers at the wine shop, they said it was “scrumpy.” Friends, I have not encountered sweet partially fermented scrumpy before, but I am open to being corrected. Please enlighten me.
At any rate, the Chill Wine Bar had gone through almost two growlers of this cider since 2pm, so it was doing good business. As I sat sipping my drink I overheard a couple – also drinking the cider – chatting about their attempts at cider making at home. Clearly the cider buzz is about at the home-makers are coming out for Cider Week.
As some of you may know, I’ve recently taken on a new job at a local winery in Indiana – Oliver Winery. Why wine and not cider? Well, Oliver does happen to make some ciders, and as the oldest and largest winery in the state of Indiana, right down the road from where I currently live and am attending grad school, it seemed like the best choice and a really good opportunity to get more insight into the wine and cider business here in the United States. Plus, they were hiring right when I needed to find a job. So this blog may begin to take on the world of wine as well as cider.
I was hired to work in the tasting room, and I have been happy also to find my way into some work in the vineyard as well. Let me just say, that up until now, I have enjoyed wine, but have known very little about it. My introductory training at Oliver has opened up a whole new world of the grape! Southern Indiana, it turns out, has some great advantages as a wine growing area. Our upland landscape has some ideal topogaphy for drainage, and we get enough sun and heat in the summer to support some good growing conditions. Oliver makes over 40 different wines, some from grapes imported from other growing regions in the US, and some from its own Creekbend Vineyard, where I am also now working. Some of my favorites at the moment are the Chambourcin, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Traminette, and Vignoles. Let me just say that our training was wonderful, thorough, and very fun (but very responsible!). In the tasting room, we have to be able to describe and discuss all of these wines for customers, so we really do have to know how they taste, and how they are made. And customers are many! On a weekend, there are usually at least five people behind the tasting bar at all times, not to mention many other staff on the floor, at the registers, and behind the scenes. Thus far, I am really impressed with Oliver as a company – they seem really dedicated to treating customers and staff really well.
My time out in the vineyard has just started, but I am so glad to be able to spend time working in an agricultural setting – this is one of the things I love about cider and wine – the connection these drinks have to their agricultural source. Working out in the landscape is so rewarding. On my first day, I spent all day pruning and tying vines. And today, I spent most of the day digging holes and planting replacement vines with some wonderfully friendly and fun co-workers. We’ve had very cool wet weather interspersed with some tantalizing warm sunny days. Many of the vines are breaking bud, and it it quite exciting to think that they will soon begin to leaf out. I’m learning little tidbits about wine grape cultivation along the way, and I hope to keep learning more. As much as I miss the orchards in Herefordshire, I am really happy to have found my way back out in the fields here in Indiana, contributing to the alchemy of fruit growing and fermentation.
Meanwhile, my dissertation has been on the backburner – moving back to the States, getting this new job, training, and starting in both capacities at the tasting room and the vineyard have taken up a lot of my time for the past two months. (As well as some academic tasks like attending some conferences, writing reviews for journals, and submitting paper proposals for more conferences). In addition, I’ll be teaching a summer course at the University during May and June, which has diverted time and energy into preparation for that task. However, I have been reading and picking up new books on the dissertation subject. Some interesting readings on Cider and the English Landscape are on my desk, and I hope to share some thoughts on these as I work through them. Stay tuned!