I don’t know about other New Yorkers City dwellers but I often like to escape this urban jungle. An easy escape is New York’s Hudson Valley, where I was lucky enough to be raised for the better part of my childhood. Fact: Hudson Valley is actually the oldest wine producing region in the United States, and in addition to all this enticement and charm, it was also devotedly named as the nation’s “apple belt”.
The Empire State is the second largest producer of apples in the USA, producing nearly 30 million bushels of this pomaceous fruit annually (our predecessor is Washington State). The iconic country apple may make some people conjure up visions of hayrides, pies and picking-outings to the orchards, but for others there are immediate thoughts of cider – the hard stuff. And there’s plenty to go around! In fact, Hudson Valley is predicted to be the “Napa Valley of cider” in the next 20 years.
Cider is a carbonated and alcoholic beverage made from the fermented juice of apples. It is sometimes compared to champagne because it’s fizzy and alike in color. It’s also compared to beer, as both are highly caloric beverages that are fermented using yeast and similar in alcohol content, roughly between 5-7%. It’s also comparable to wine because it is produced using fruit and contains plenty of antioxidants – called polyphenols. Cider is refreshing, light in alcohol, food-friendly and rapidly regaining its fame.
How you like them apples? There’s a big difference between cider apples and eating apples. You’ll discover quickly that cider apples are unfit for snacking and that is because they’re strictly grown for pressing and fermentation, much like grapes specifically grown to press wine. To help facilitate the blending, apples are organized into four main categories: Sweets, Sharps, Bittersweets, and Bittersharps. It takes about 36 pieces of fruit to produce one gallon of cider; just more of a reason to appreciate it!
The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree – A few original fans of cider include, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, who apparently began his day quaffing a tankard and toasting to good health! Rumor has it that New York City is called “The Big Apple” because during The Great Depression, former working financiers would travel, fully-suited, from their cottages in Hudson Valley. Cider had such a vital purpose in colonial society, it was sometimes even used to pay salaries. Unfortunately, during Prohibition in the early 20th Century (between 1919 and 1933), cider trees were labeled “demon orchards” and apple growers had to destroy them. The only apples left to be harvested were “table apples”, and cultivation of cider apples and the production of alcoholic cider were forced to come to an end in the name of sobriety.
Many, many years later in 2010, The Cider Project was launched, an initiative with an aim to protect and support farming in New York’s Hudson Valley. In tandem with a non-profit agricultural organization, the Cider Alliance was born, a group of craft cider companies working hard to establish hard cider as the trademark beverage of the Hudson Valley region.
If you are looking for a way to celebrate the abundance of this emblematic and legendary potion, check out Cider Week. It runs from June 12 to June 21. This exciting spotlight on cider brings apple growers together with local culinary enthusiasts, and the area’s top restaurants, bars and retailers. Cider Week’s aim is to reignite the passion for this beverage in hopes that it becomes just as conspicuous as it was during the 19th century, to promote awareness, and to raise profitability to local orchards. Cider Week offers everyone (over age 21) to enjoy, taste and learn how well this beverage can work with different entrees, and with over 90 local establishments participating, it is a joint effort in reviving hard cider. For event listings, see Cider Week Hudson Valley. If you prefer concrete landscapes, see Cider Week NYC, which runs from November 6-15.
Whether you want to wash down a meal or just support The Empire State, cider is a timeless libation that will impress you every time.