Today’s guest blog is brought to you by writer and editor Bob Hoover
I’ve been making my own cider on and off for 30 years as a productive way to use my extra “capacity” from a formerly busy home brewing operation; that is, the leftover bottles and empty fermenting vessels.
The sweet or unfermented cider came from local apples pressed into juice and sold at farmer’s markets. That’s where I first met Don Kretchmer, then a lone voice of organic farming who brought his beets, greens and cider to the city’s first farm market on the North Side of Pittsburgh in the early 1980s.
There was only one in those days, Fridays in a parking lot across the street from West Park. I would get five gallons from Kretchmer and turn it into hard cider in my fermenting “cellars,” the chilly basement of my Mexican War Streets home.
Over the intervening years, I’ve tried other sources of cider, probably the best a serious orchard in Washington County which provides the juice to several state wineries, but I had always wanted to get the stuff the way the French apparently do from ugly misshapen, rough apples that were rejected for eating and left to rot on the ground.
These apples were shriveled from drying, meaning the sugar in them was concentrated, turning the cider made from them into a perfect medium for the “Pasteur” commercial champagne yeast to convert it into a pure, maybe even organic hard cider.
Sherrie Flick to the rescue. Untended apple trees sprinkle her family farm in faraway (well, two hours) Forest County, Pennsylvania. There I could pick all the apples I wanted and store them in the farm’s spring house to let them concentrate that sugar.
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