In A Time Before Refrigeration…..
All Cider was Hard.
So begins Jim Collins from Yankee Magazine, who wrote about Farnum Hill Ciders in the September/October article, First Light: A House Where Cider Rules.
He visited Poverty Lane Orchards last year to interview Steve, and I remember being impressed with — or surprised by — the lead time Yankee requested. But somehow planning so far ahead seems fitting for a northern New England-focused magazine: practical and frugal at once.
The article traces cider from the early days of American history — you may recall that Johnny Appleseed was planting cider apples, not apples for the family fruit bowl — through Prohibition and beyond.
At Poverty Lane Orchards, where we grow English, French and American cider apples (often rare, antique or heirloom varieties) to produce Farnum Hill Ciders, Steve Wood and Louisa Spencer are taking the orchard back in time. Grower and cidermaker Steve Wood explains some of what they were thinking:
“It was a huge gamble, and people called us crazy,” Wood recalls, sitting down with a glass of his Extra-Dry Still Cider in the bottling room at the end of a day. He and Louisa traveled and talked with old-time cider makers in England and France. They read everything they could find. They experimented with different varieties; discovered which apples grew well in the unforgiving New Hampshire climate; blended them for just the right proportion of sugars, acids, tannins, and fruitiness. Through trial and error, they refined the process. Their timing was good: They jumped into this just as the microbrew and local-food trends were gathering steam. Theirs was real cider, nuanced cider, with the complexity of fine wine. They created a label: Farnum Hill Ciders. And in liquor stores and fancy markets they found a niche.
Nearly two decades later, they’ve converted about half of the orchard’s 80 acres to cider trees and are preparing some 20 more for planting. At trade shows and farmers’ markets, Steve and Louisa are on a crusade to introduce a nation of consumers to a product once found in every farmhouse basement and back room in New England.
“Some people still call us crazy,” Wood says, lifting a glass of liquid gold to his lips. The flavor and aroma are subtle, slightly woody; the drink goes down smooth. “We can’t say we’ve won the gamble yet,” he adds. “But an awful lot of orchards have disappeared since we started. And we’re still here.”
Join us by putting some history on the table, and let us help take you to a time before refrigeration, when ALL cider was hard.