Cider still has an unworthy reputation in the UK, mainly because of the insipid mass-produced drinks masquerading under the name. Traditional farmhouse cider is quite a different drink and there has been a recent resurgence in production of farmhouse cider by a dedicated band of artisan producers. James Crowden’s book, Ciderland gives an excellent account of the present state (http://www.james-crowden.co.uk/index.php?option=com_virtuemart&page=shop.product_details&flypage=shop.flypage&product_id=34&Itemid=27&vmcchk=1&Itemid=27).
Down in Devon, where I live, cider is the drink associated with the county. There are several artisan producers and there is even one surviving all-cider bar in Newton Abbot, Ye Olde Cider Bar.
There are also some lovely songs celebrating Devon’s enthusiasm for cider. One such song, “Devonshire Cream and Cider” by Theodore Curzon and Wilfrid Sanderson contains a chorus with the following words:
Oi be nigh on ninety seven
Born and bred in dear old Dev’n
And folks may be as old as Oi in other parts of England
But when its time to rest, why lay me down beside her
And let me sleep in the dear loved land of Devonshire Cream and Cider
If you want to listen to the whole song, here is a link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zToWL1m8yO0
Here is another song extolling the virtues and the longevity-promoting properties of cider drinking:
I were brought up on cider
And I be a hundred and two
But still that be ‘nuthin when you come to think
Me father and mother be still in the pink
And they were brought up on cider
Of the rare old Tavistock brew
And me Granfer drinks quarts
For he’s one of the sports
That were brought up on cider too
Cider making is superficially simple. All you need is good juice from cider apples which you leave to ferment under suitable conditions and six months later you have cider. But actually it’s a bit more complex; there may be two separate fermentations going on and an understanding of the science behind the processes helps in producing a good uniform product.
I was interested in understanding the science of cider making so, about 10 months ago, we visited one of the local artisan cider makers at Heron Valley near Kingsbridge (http://www.heronvalley.co.uk/). It was a lovely visit; we were warmly welcomed by the Heron Valley boss, Natasha Bradley and came away more knowledgeable and with a few bottles of cider too!
The visit is described in an article in the October edition of Devon Life Magazine (https://philipstrange.wordpress.com/published-stuff/devon-life-magazine/) and there is a rather different description on the LabLit web site (http://www.lablit.com/article/648).