Franklin County CiderDays will celebrate its 25th Anniversary with three days of cider tastings, apple recipes, apple history, holistic orchard management, and more as well as the crowning of Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruiting trees and orchards. The party will begin on Friday, November 1 and end on Sunday, November 3 at 5 p.m. It is important to order tickets for some of the special talks as they always sell out, but there are many free events. Talks and tastings will be held at the apple orchards as well as at venues in Greenfield, Shelburne Falls, Ashfield, Deerfield, Northfield, Colrain, Hawley and Turners Falls.
There was no plan to organize an annual cider festival back in 1994. I spoke to Charlie Olchowski, one of the founders of CiderDays who said it all began when Paul Correnty’s book,
, with Olchowski’s photographs, was published.
Olchowski and Correnty decided that a regular book-signing launch would be too ordinary. They approached Terry and Judith Maloney of West County Cider and voilá, CiderDay began with Clarkdale Fruit Farms, Greenwood Farm, Pine Hill Orchards, and West County Cider as the venues for the day. The event culminated with a bring-your-own tasting at the Maloney’s sampling room in Colrain. CiderDay is now celebrated the first weekend every November.
I’ve always thought of cider as a very New England sort of drink. Early apples under harsh growing conditions were not very palatable but were used to make cider. In the early days of our country clean water was not always available and cider was an important thirst quencher. We in Massachusetts still sing of John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, who was born in Leominster in 1774.
Johnny Appleseed was an old man when William Harrison ran for president in 1841 and hard cider was still an important drink. Harrison sold himself as a candidate by saying he was a “log cabin and hard cider’ man. Unfortunately Harrison died of pneumonia a month after his inauguration. It was not the cider’s fault.
It was the Temperance movement followed by Prohibition that dealt a hard blow to cider makers and drinkers. By the time prohibition ended in 1933 German immigrants had started making beer which became the most popular drink. Not until a few decades ago has hard cider been making a slow resurgence.
“Hard cider is much more popular than it was 25 years ago,” Olchowski said. “The fashion for cider has spread around the world. Ciders stylistically vary from country to country. That difference does not usually come from the various species of apples, but more so from various microorganisms that produce complex compounds and acetic and lactic acids giving the styles their distinctive character. There will be ciders from other regions in our country as well as foreign countries for tasting during the three cider days.”
Olchowski also said there are now other big cider events. CiderCon is a nine year old trade conference for the United States Association of Cider Makers with vendors from 44 states and from ten countries. It speaks to the growing popularity of cider, but it is nothing like Franklin County’s celebration for the community. “We want our CiderDays to remain local, to further the culture of cider, but also to educate what foods go well with cider.
“Every hall was filled last year and ticketed events completely sold out. There is no question that attendance has grown each year. This year there are 16 more talks and more diversity of topics,” Olchowski said.
Two of the talks, one about cyser and the other about ice cider, were particularly interesting to me. As a former beekeeper I knew about mead which is an alcoholic drink made of fermented honey and water. And yeast. Cyser is a combination of mead and apple cider.
There will also be a talk about ice cider. My cousin used to make ice wine, from frozen grapes. Olchowski said “Ice cider works the same way with apples, concentrating the aromas, flavors, and sugars, thereby making an enticing complex drink with intense apple personality and a higher alchohol content.”
CiderDays was created to celebrate Paul Correnty’s book The Art of Cider Making. This year the program will include information about a new book. John Bunker, an expert orchardist of old heirloom apples in Maine will be interviewing Andy Brennan about his new book, Uncultivated: Wild Apples, Real Cider and the Complicated Art of Making a Living. Andy Brennan describes uncultivation as a process. “It involves exploring the wild; recognizing that much of nature is omitted from our conventional ways of seeing and doing things.”
Olchowski said that one of the final events will be Sunday morning at Apex Orchards with Bring Your Own; Tasting Homemade Ciders. The panel consisting of Paul Correnty, Steve Patt, Charlie Olchowski and Nathaniel Williams will assess and critique ciders that audience members made. Laughter and information are sure to ensue.
Lots to learn and lots to enjoy at this year’s CiderDays.
Between the Rows October 26, 2019