More on cider
I posted the other day about our visit to the Poverty Lane Orchard in New Hampshire, home of Farnum Hill Cider. I closed with a promise of more images, so here is another. Before discussing the significance of these barrels let me describe the basics of cider production. One begins with quality apples and juices them. Whether blended at this point or not the juice is inoculated with yeast and stored in sealed containers. If you remember your high school science class you will recall that yeast will respire in the presence of oxygen just as we do. Once the oxygen has been depleted however the yeast have the capacity to respire in the absence of oxygen via a process called anaerobic respiration. Remember that the byproduct of this anaerobic fermentation is ethanol. Once this primary fermentation is complete the cider will be racked (siphoned from the barrel, leaving behind the yeast sediments) and then undergo a secondary fermentation to age and to allow the drink to mature and develop its unique character. In particular the aging process allows tannins (from the seeds, skins, and stems of the fruit and from the barrels themselves), which are acidic and act as a preservative, to settle and to reveal the true character of the cider. Character, in this case, being the particular and complex blend of sugars and a myriad other variables which define any particular cider variety. So, what about these barrels from Farnum Hill? Ryan describes these as being neutral because they do not impart any woody or oak flavor to the cider, they allow for very little oxygen transfer through their walls, and they can be filled to the tippy-top (they provide little head room). These Farnum Hill beauties were first used at a winery on Long Island for more than a decade before making their way to New Hampshire. Wood barrels are typically the only vessels used for fermenting single varieties. If you look closely you will see writing, in chalk, which indicates varietal types including Ash K. (Ashmead’s Kernel) and Spitz (Esopus Spitzenberg). Most barrels of varietal cider are used to tweak larger blended lots when something highly acidic or in possession of some other favorable or otherwise flavorful attribute is required. Stay tuned, more images to come.