Guest Podcaster and cidermaker, Alex Kroh, bring us into the orchard at Eve’s Cidery. This episode 90 is Part 1 of a two-part show with the makers at this New York State cidery! Find Part 2 when it goes live next week on episode 91.
Pulling up to Eve’s Cidery in the small town of Van Etten, NY, you would be forgiven for thinking your GPS is broken. There’s no indication you’re in the right place unless you happen to peer in through the barn door to spot some inconspicuous fermenters back beyond the wooden apple bins. I don’t know what I was expecting. Perhaps because of the reputation Eve’s Cidery has for producing some of the finest ciders in the country, I thought their operation would be more… built up, perhaps. After spending a generous four hours touring through the orchard and ciderhouse, I realized that the humble infrastructure that supports Eve’s is secondary, or even inconsequential compared to the place, the apples and the people.
I see, now, that this is a reflection of the values and aspirations of Autumn Stoschek, co-founder of Eve’s cidery, and Ezra Sherman, a lawyer in his previous life, who would both rather spend all of their time growing apples and making cider than tending to the various other aspects of running a business. The ciderhouse is just enough to support that. For instance, there’s no tasting room at Eve’s. When we got the chance to taste through some of their amazing ciders, we sat on wooden crates on the concrete barn floor. Later I would learn from Autumn that the entire operation grew organically from year to year through the hard work and grit that must accompany any agricultural and small-business endeavor. “There was no million dollar investment.” In fact, the “seed money” to start Eve’s came from her saved tip money from waitressing.
There were other forces at work, too. A formative experience working at an idyllic organic Vermont farm at the age of 15, and later a job with James Cummins, co-founder of Eve’s and son of famous rootstock breeder Dr. Jim Cummins, and finally an article about Steve Wood’s cider apples (Farnum Hill Ciders and Poverty Lane Orchards, Episodes 32 and 33) in Fruit Growers News all convened in the life of 21 year old Autumn and compelled her to drive to Poverty Lane Orchards in New Hampshire to see it all for herself.
It was a risky move, dropping in on Steve Wood a busy orchardist and cidermaker, but one gets the feeling that he was more impressed than anything. He subsequently tasted Autumn through his catalog of ciders and sent her home with scionwood from his own trees. She grafted that budwood onto trees at James’ Littletree orchard and the next year planted more grafted trees on her father’s land before she had land of her own. Then began the life-long journey of learning to grow apples specifically for making cider.
Growing great fruit is the key to making great cider, and this is clearly the focus at Eve’s Albee Hill orchard, which we toured during our chat. There’s a way to do it that maximizes the juice qualities that contribute to flavor and complexity, and it tends to fly in the face of “conventional” modern apple growing. Instead, it turns out that these methods have a lot more in common with organic growing methods. Cider fruit doesn’t have the cosmetic standards that dessert fruit does and there’s an opportunity for cider apple growers to align their practices with a more ecologically responsible way growing.
So how do you create the conditions that maximize the apple’s potential for making great cider? Briefly:
- Create or utilize mineralized soils and maximize mineral accessibility to the tree’s root system through the use of deep-rooted companion crops, healthy soil microbes and mycorrhizal fungi (and don’t spray chemicals in the orchard that will kill these)
- Encourage a healthy, functioning tree immune system that will produce secondary plant compounds, the phytochemicals that contribute to flavor, aroma, mouthfeel, etc… The trees need some pest and disease pressure, enough to keep the immune system active, not so much that the tree is stressed (again, fewer chemicals to spray)
- Don’t over-irrigate – less water in the apple means a higher concentration of sugar, tannin and other phytochemicals
Growing cider apples this way lends itself well to an experience of terroir in the glass, too. Of course, the cidermaking techniques employed are just as important. If you have too much residual sugar or cover up subtle flavors with additives or faults, you won’t likely get a hint of what terroir is contributing. In Part II (episode 91) of our chat, we discuss cidermaking techniques that transform great apples into great cider at Eve’s Cidery.
Eve’s Cidery special August 2017 deal for Cider Chat listeners – free shipping on orders of Eve’s Cider!
Mentioned in Part I:
Steve Wood, Farnum Hill Ciders and Poverty Lane Orchards – http://www.povertylaneorchards.com/
Finger Lakes Fruit Geeks:
Garrett Miller and Melissa Madden of Finger Lakes Cider House/Kite and String Cider/Good Life Farm – www.fingerlakesciderhouse.com
Eric Shatt Redbyrd Orchard Cider – https://redbyrdorchardcider.com/
Mike Biltonen, Know Your Roots Consulting – http://knowyouroots.com/
Contact Eve’s Cidery
308 Beckhorn Hollow Rd
Van Etten, NY 14889
Ask for the following 8 #CiderGoingUP Campaign supporters – By supporting these cider makers, you in turn help Ciderville.
- Kurant Cider – Pennsylvania : listen to Joe Getz on episode 14
- Big Apple Hard Cider – NYC : listen to Danielle von Scheiner on episode 35
- Oliver’s Cider and Perry – Herefordshire/UK ; listen to Tom Oliver on episode 29
- Santa Cruz Cider Company – California : listen to Nicole Todd on episode 60
- The Cider Project aka EthicCider– California
- Albermale CiderWorks : listen to Chuck Shelton on episode 56
- Cider Summit : listen to Alan Shapiro founder of this cider fest on episode 75.
- Ramborn Cider Co. Luxembourg.
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