From a high-school job planting traditional cider trees such as Yarlington Mill, Kingston Black, and Dabinett at the Slow Food recognized White Oak Cider in rural Yamhill County, to student days drinking cider from plastic 2-litres on the streets of Cork City, Ireland, cider has fascinated me from an early age. I’ve been making cider for over half my life.
We pressed juice from Gravensteins on the farm when I was kid in the wilds of northern Yamhill County. As it started to ferment in the fridge, I always enjoyed the prickle of carbonation and the winey notes. My first batch of fermented cider, was based on a recipe in Profane Existence zine, made from apples smuggled out of my college-dining hall in my flight jacket a dozen at a time, then macerated with a cheese grater from the local hardware store and pressed between two dinner plates. I fermented it in my Macalester College dorm-room closet, in a carboy borrowed from a homebrewer across the hall. After a month I began drinking it, at times straight from the 5-gallon carboy. How it taste? Well, let’s just say every batch since has been better, and the next thing I made was a stout.
Drinking cider in Ireland was inspirational, and in my senior of college, back in the states a friend and I salvaged materials from a closing restaurant and built a massive cider press for our homebrew club. We sought out the most acidic apples Minnesota had to offer and made some pretty drinkable stuff.
Every year since then I’ve gathered together a band of friends and headed to the family farm in Yamhill to pick our wild apples (high in acids) and use the old handcranked cider mill. Combined with traditional cider apples from White Oak, we make some pretty world-class cider. Our ciders have received the acclaim of not only friends and family, but of commercial cidermakers as well.
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