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CIDER APPLES characteristics of a cider apple, but if I were to pick one that best sums up my type of cider I would pick this one: Denniston Red. Good Cider Apples Sometime around 2014 we rounded the corner as a nation and we don't have to call it hard cider anymore, but now my frustration is given to another cause: the new definition of the ancient term cider apple. To me and to most cultures around the world—as well as to apple growers during the first 350 years of our Western history in America—a cider apple is just an apple that makes something known as good cider. I can't define this—you know it when you see it—but one reads these words good cider over and over again in every apple text dating back centuries. ‘There are no specifications as to which varieties to use and what the correct growing practices are, but anyone who's discovered which apples make good cider will have firm opinions about what is and what isn’t a cider apple. It’s how the apples got that way, and how the right apples for good cider are grown, that have always been the hottest topics in the field of cider making You'd think we would have given up by now and just say It all depends, but that’s not the nature of farmers, cider makers, the market, and especially academics. We want to discover that universal conclusion. Diversity is still the rule in nature, however, and if Western farmers were not self-limiting, contained landowners, if they cultivated trees in many different locations like the Native Americans did, it’s likely we'd abandon the quest for the decisive answer. Determined nonetheless, these days we're looking to cider varieties to provide the conclusions we seem to need. To be clear though, a cider variety is nof the same as a cider apple (the mix-up is at the core of my frustrations). Cider apples have been around for hundreds and hundreds of years, while the grafting of whole orchards is a relatively brand-spanking-new preference in the overall history of cider making. And even newer still is the cider industry's preference for “bitter- sweet” apples (starting around 1900). While we still haven't addressed how to specifically grow them for cider, either. Technically a cider variety, like a Harrison or Dabinett, is nof a cider apple unless it’s grown uniquely as one. In fact they could be good eating apples if grown conventionally —135— UNCULTIVATED on eating-apple farms. The opposite can be said of eating apple varieties if they are grown as cider fruit: I personally know of culinary varieties on certain trees (especially old, uncultivated trees) that make a superior drink compared with cider varieties that I've tested from conventional orchards. The key to good cider, in my opinion, is how it’s grown. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves—is it nature or is it nurture?—when over 99 percent of the world’s commercial orchards still staunchly promote a third, thoroughly unhelpful definition of cider apple, given as a grade of conventional fruit. This now makes three camps of theory, each of which promotes a different definition of cider apple, and they don't see eye to eye given that there are other interests involved beyond taste. Two of those camps are dominated by either commercial growers or commercial cider makers, while the third is largely made up of home cider makers and rural growers considered outsiders to modern agriculture. Of the two commer- cial definitions of cider apple, one is supported mainly by cider makers and academia, while the other is supported mainly by conventional apple growers supplying nearly 100 percent of the commodity fruit. Definition 1: A cider apple is any apple that ends up in cider. Supporting this definition (the unhelpful definition) are the existing commercial apple growers. Each year their orchards produce billions upon billions of culinary apples, and often they can't sell the majority of what their trees produce, thanks to hail damage, discoloration, a glut in the market, or what have you. Of course they want to sell the apples, duh, even if just for pennies on the dollar. But the term cider apples would seem a misnomer if it weren't for the fact that most commercial cider makers—particularly the producers who leverage the advantage of scale—conspire in this definition by using these apples almost exclusively (although few openly admit this in their marketing). Adding further weight to this definition is the influence those com- mercial apple growers exert over misinformed government lackeys. In The New Cider Maker's Handbook, Claude Jolicocur tells the story of Canadian legislation essentially ensuring that only leftover commodity apples can be used in cider making. Maybe on a certain level we can understand the good intentions behind this rule: The socially conscious society was simply — 136 — CIDER APPLES trying to use its existing resources efficiently, not see them go to waste. But to place limits on creativity and place their blind faith in what's advantageous ‘for certain growers is best for everyone is shocking! (A similar abuse of good intentions happened in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley when commercial growers convinced the Canadian government to sanction the roundup and removal of “unkempt” homeowner apple trees. They believed, and probably accurately, that the uncultivated trees were harboring diseases capable of spreading to farms, but the decision to concentrate trees to commercial orchards only further exacerbates the problem of tree immune response!) Actually, the United States has a policy that seems to suggest that leftover culinary apples are synonymous with cider apples, too. The USDA divides the fruit by grades: Extra Fancy, Fancy, No. 1, and Utili- ty—a grading system that was created to set standards for apples in the marketplace. Obviously the Extra Fancy apples get carried off in a gold chariot, but guess where the Utility apples end up? Cider apples, by this definition, are the same apples as the ones in the grocery store: ‘They are the same varieties, they are grown on the same farms, and they are grown in the same way. So even though farmers explicitly worked their asses off not to grow Utility apples, in the end the inspector stepped in and deemed them to be cider apples. Both in Canada and in the United States, 99 percent of all “cider apples” are apples of last resort. Definition 2: A cider apple is one specifically grown for cider and possesses genetically advantageous cider properties (a cider variety) I like this definition, but by now you can guess my protest. Who but someone with something to gain gets to christen certain varieties as cider apples? If an apple makes good cider on your land but makes shitty cider on my land, what does that get me when the market begins to favor par- ticular varieties? It gets me strategically boxed out is what it gets me. I’m not only opposed to this definition for reasons of sharkishness, but also morally opposed to this definition because the apple tree itself is opposed to it. The last thing I or the Ma/us genus wants is to see another market pinched to a few specimens like the culinary apple market has been. Nonetheless, I'll admit there are some great varieties for cider out there. On my land, for instance, Porter's Perfection, an apple grown in England, creates the properties that I like in cider: It’s tart, it’s little, it —137 —