Cider has always held an important place in the traditional and rural American kitchen. In colonial days, when clean water wasn’t always available, nearly every pantry was well stocked with a few barrels of hard cider.
Though most top-shelf cider is still found largely at cider houses, taprooms, or restaurants, there are now quite a few decent ciders beginning to appear on the shelves of some of the larger grocery outlets. Until quite recently the bulk of the nationally distributed ciders were abominable conceits, often made with apple concentrate imported from China, the world’s largest apple producer, as well as added sugar used to boost the alcohol content during fermentation.
Today, the modern American craft-brewing movement that originated with beer has now moved to cider. This has inspired a wealth of fine craft ciders that offer a complex array of bright fruit notes and nuances. These dry and subtle ciders are perfect to pair with salty and smoky foods making them a welcome addition to any barbecue.
One example of top-flight west coast cider is Sebastopol’s Devoto Gardens. Sonoma County is home to some of the worlds best apples. During the last century untold acres of orchards were uprooted in order to make way for more lucrative grape cultivation. Today, with the market for high-end ciders once again blooming, apple orchards in the area are again a prized local resource.
The company produces Apple Sauced, a single-varietal cider made with dry-farmed Gravenstein apples. Using champagne yeast, it is quick-fermented to preserve the zesty, tangy flavor of the fruit. And this is remarkable fruit indeed as the climate where the orchards are located in Sebastopol are an ideal location to dry-farm apples. The fog that rolls in every night helps keep the fruit crisp and allows it to ripen slowly. Just as with grapes, this slow-ripening process is the real key to developing subtlety and complexity in fermented fruit beverages.