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Cider Varieties

Posted: Fri Jun 15, 2012 10:13 am
by SOME IDIOT
I just cleared some land and was thinking about planting a cider orchard and I was wondering what are some cider varieties that the community would recommend. I live in zone 5A.
Any feedback is appreciated.

Re: Cider Varieties

Posted: Wed Jun 20, 2012 1:28 am
by dmtaylor
It can seriously be as easy as planting a whole slew of Honeycrisp, Zestar, and/or random crabapples. Honeycrisp and Zestar are bred for cold winters and both are pretty much the juiciest and sweetest apples you'd ever need. Crabapples add tartness, bitterness, and complex flavors. If you want to get more serious into traditional cider varieties, you might want to look into Baldwin, Kingston Black, Dabinett, Michelin, etc. There are dozens of old varieties used by the English, French, and early Americans that people are still using to make good cider today. However I am not exactly sure which ones are best suited to growing in Zone 5. I know Tony Dembski grows a few of these in Zone 4 -- look him up at Maple Valley Orchards. Hope this helps.

Re: Cider Varieties

Posted: Wed Jun 20, 2012 7:58 pm
by Chuck Rhode
dmtaylor wrote:I know Tony Dembski grows a few of these in Zone 4 -- look him up at Maple Valley Orchards.
Tony lists many varieties on his Web site. He says the following may be used for cider making. He raises them and can usually provide scion wood to order in the early spring:
  • Ashmeads Kernel
  • Baldwin
  • Bramleys Seedling
  • Grimes Golden
  • Hadlock Reinette
  • Manitoba Spy
  • Pink Sparkle
  • Redmax
  • Ribston
  • Wagener
Additionally, his descriptions, borrowed from various sources, call out these varieties as traditional cider apples:
  • Black Oxford
  • Crimeson Spire
  • Gilpin
  • Golden Russet
  • Grindstone
  • Jersey Sweet
  • Kingston Black
  • Milwaukee
  • MN1734
  • Plum Cider
  • Redfield
  • Roxbury Russet
  • Smoke House
  • Sops of Wine
  • St. Edmunds Russet
  • Sweet Alford
  • Yarlington Mill
Fair warning: Tony is more interested in traditional varieties than traditional spelling of varietal names.

Yet more .... It has reached me, o reader, that these mentioned by Seed Savers' Exchange are good cider varieties:
  • Caney Fork Limber Twig
  • Cortland
  • Cox's Orange Pippin
  • Empire
  • Fameuse
  • Gravenstein, Red
  • Haralson
  • Hibernal
  • Lady
  • McIntosh
  • Maiden Blush
  • Marigold
  • Mutsu
  • Northern Spy
  • Stayman Winesap
  • Tompkins King
  • Wealthy
  • Wickson Crab
A local orchard that sells good cider raises Golden Russet among other varieties. Their blend is confidential of course, but I imagine a russet is a staple ingredient. I have a Golden Russet tree. The fruit is late and keeps well and has been fairly sweet with a strangely grassy bouquet.

I have a tree of Fameuse, which is called Snow Apple. It's an early sauce apple. It's fairly sweet with a Mac-like flavor, so it probably makes a decent early cider.

I have a tree of Wealthy. It's a heavy bearing, mid-season, general purpose apple. Whether the cider from it is all that great is probably not so important historically as that it is available before the stronger flavored varieties mature.

I have branch grafts of Kingston Black. It has a weedy habit. Fruit is abundant but small like crab apples. It has a strongly medicinal flavor.

I've not made my own cider. Instead I buy nondescript frozen juice in plastic jugs and thaw and ferment a gallon at a time on my kitchen counter. Three or four days of rapid fermentation of the juice, such as occurs at about 75°, is plenty for me. Then I pop it in the refrigerator because I like mine sparkling and a little sweet. The hard cider I've bought bottled is still, dry, and fairly insipid to my taste, so I suppose what it needs is a strongly flavored variety in the blend like one of the old English cider apples.

Also, I have branch grafts of MN1734 but no fruit yet, though. When I've bought fruit from Tony, I've found it woody but with an over-the-top, winey taste.

... so you get the idea: Any kind of apple can be pressed for juice, and any juice blend can be fermented ... and is.

Finally, I have to say I like Sweet Sixteen a lot as well as Idared, Ellison's Orange, and Egremont Russet. All but Egremont Russet have borne for me. These are strongly flavored varieties and would probably be useful in a cider blend.

87° — Wind S 13 mph

Re: Cider Varieties

Posted: Thu Jun 21, 2012 11:02 pm
by dmtaylor
I have pressed my own cider and found that the softer varieties such as Fameuse, Mac, Cortland, St Edmunds Russet, Egremont Russet, and probably many of the other russets are harder to press since they tend to gum up the cheeses unless you blend them with crunchier varieties. The juice they make is all delicious, though, of course.

Sweet Sixteen is a very good one that I would second -- very sweet and juicy like most other Minnesota releases.