A Lackadaisical Cider Season

Maybe it’s the pandemic, maybe it’s been a busy year, maybe both, but my cidering has languished a little this season. It all started, as it often does, with research. I didn’t do any. Despite promising myself I would research new historic cider recipes, I never did. When cider season arrived, I knew I wasn’t going to recreate anything, but I figured I could at least make something interesting.

Unlike the research, I started looking for juice early. I began reaching out in August, hoping to get everything squared away. My emails and calls went largely unanswered and by October it was starting to look like I wasn’t going to have anything to ferment. Happily, I was wrong. I was able to get 16 gallons of three kinds of juice. It’s almost half of what I’ve been getting the last few years, but more than I thought I was going to have this year.

Clockwise from the top left – Granny Smith, Jonagold, and the orchard’s December Blend.

The Jonagold started at the end of November and the Granny and December blend came mid-December. All three are wild fermented (though I had to add some already-fermenting juice from the Granny to the December blend to get it going). The Jonagold fermented quickly and cleared very well. Within a five weeks it looked ready to be racked.

However, in keeping with this year’s pace, I didn’t rack it into secondary until yesterday.

The other ciders have apparently picked up on my vibe, because as of yesterday they’re both still pretty dark and bubbling away. Though the Granny (on the left) has recently calmed down. This isn’t really a complaint. I’d rather have a long, slow ferment than a fast one.

I combined yesterday’s racking work with a blending test. J and I pulled out three single-varietals from last season’s cidering to play with.

I was really excited to get the Porter’s Perfection, which has a reputation as a fascinating single-varietal. While it did start wonderfully, it had a leathery, almost chemically finish. J didn’t like it all, but I thought it was good, if a bit earthy. The Medaille, d’Or has always been perfumey to me, unpleasantly so. After a year in the bottle it retained its perfume and added a little vinegary tartness. It’s no good on its own and it easily overwhelms a blend if left to run amuck. The Dabinett was a good, solid cider, though I preferred it as the base of a blend.

We tried a few other blends, but these are the ones J recorded.

It’s the first bottle of each we’ve opened and we went right to blending. I’d like to try the Porter’s and Dabinett by themselves. One thing I’ve noticed is it helps to decant these ciders and let them open up. Maybe taking a little more time isn’t all bad.

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