Making cider is easy. Making good cider is a whole other kettle of fish. It’s the closest thing you can get to alchemy without giving yourself mercury poisoning. But the brave people at Muwin Estate’s Bulwark Cider and the Ross Farm Museum will arguably be doing it the best way possible: with your heritage apples.
Now without getting too heavy into the science of what makes good cider making so hard, and why heritage apples are so fantastic for it, let’s just say that it comes down to the level of tannins (the stuff that causes the puckering taste you find in tea), and getting a complex and well rounded flavour, often by using a blend of apples. That isn’t even touching on the fermentation process which involves getting your yeast to behave like a bunch of good little soldiers instead of the ruffian gang of microorganisms they are. The short version is this: anything could go wrong. If it does, at best you end up with some funky but potable cider, and at worst you get vinegar. Or vice versa, depending how you feel about apple cider vinegar.
Heritage apples are better suited to cider making compared to modern eating apples, which vary somewhere between palatable, to literally ‘dessert apples’. Red, glossy, crisp, sweet, and safe enough for a child, what you find in the stores today are the products of science – the milk toast version of a once powerful and unforgiving breed. The downside being that cider making has somewhat fallen out of fashion this last century, and is no longer the commonplace industry it once was. Consequently, heritage varieties of apples have become somewhat harder to find.
That is unless you know where to look! Namely your backyards, the edges of old farmyards, your grandparent’s carriage and basket-weaving emporium. You’ll find trees lurking in all manner of places, and that’s exactly where you come in. Bulwark Cider, and the Ross Farm Museum will be playing host to Cider Days, a celebration of all things apple cidery, including The Peoples Cider Project, where they turn your heritage apples into something delicious, and above all, alcoholic.
“These days, many people have abandoned heritage apple orchards on their properties that they’ve just inherited/don’t know what to do with – heritage apples are rich in tannins and acidity, which makes them ideal for cider, but not necessarily for eating. Instead of letting these apples just fall off the trees and go to waste, we’re encouraging apple owners to harvest these apples and drop them off to Ross Farm during Cider Days,” says Sacha Smith of Bulwark Cider.
Smith says they will also be arranging for apple bushel pickup for those unable to make to the event. The organizers have done their best to drum up local interest, partly because while they do possess the know-how and even the antique cider press, they don’t have any heritage apples of their own. “We’ve been pro-active in sourcing the apples and have already had success in securing some donors. Thankfully, word of mouth goes far in this province. Anyone with apple trees on their property – whether they’re museums or someone who bought a property that just happened to have these apple trees on it, we’re interested in hearing from everyone.”
As part of their Peoples Cider Membership, contributors will be invited back to Ross Farm for a launching event in January, when the cider will be fermented, presentable, and potable. The end product will be something uniquely Nova Scotian.
“The core idea of the people’s cider is to create a community based cider that will reflect the rich apple heritage of Nova Scotia and over time assist revive some of the heirloom apple trees that can be found around the province,” says Muwin Estate co-owner Germain Bergeron. “Nova Scotia has such a rich history with the apple. We want to bottle that for them. There is no better place in the world to undertake a project like this.”
People looking to contribute to the project are encouraged to bring their bushels of apples to Ross Farm Museum between October 19th – 23rd. If people are unable to deliver their apples during Cider Days, or if they have a variety that ripens later, arrangements can be made directly with Bulwark for pick up or later drop off.
For more information including details on the full Cider Days event between October 22nd and 23rd click here.