Cider rules and people follow
Enthusiasts come from near and far to learn more
Recorder file photo/Beth Reynolds
A box brims with apples outside Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield. The orchard will celebrate 100 years in business Sunday.
Morris Dancers perform The Horn Dance at Clarkdale Fruit Farm while hundreds of visitors enjoyed tasting over 35 varieties of apples, tours of the orchards and cider house during Cider Days - a community event celebrating all things apples in Franklin County.
At Clarkdale Fruit Farm hundreds of visitors enjoyed tasting over 35 varieties of apples, tours of the orchards and cider house during Cider Days - a community event celebrating all things apples in Franklin County . Liam White, 2, with his dad Ray White of Greenfield tries a local apple. The whole family was out for Cider Days.
COLRAIN — People came to Franklin County from far and wide over the weekend, just for a drink.
Apple cider has been a New England tradition since colonial times, and for nearly 20 years, so has Cider Days.
Marsha and Brad Lindner flew out all the way from Cincinnati, Ohio, for the event. The first thing on their agenda was to head to a class at Pine Hill Orchard to learn the finer points of homemade hard cider.
“We have a small, organic orchard in a suburb of the city,” said Marsha Lindner.
They’ve had plenty of experience pressing sweet cider in their 25 years at the orchard, but they’ve only been fermenting it for two years.
Saturday, they got a lesson from Robert Delisle and Charles Olchowski, local hard cider makers with more than four decades of experience.
Olchowski’s technique leans toward the scientific, using special equipment to determine just what his cider needs. He keeps detailed logs of his batches of cider to easily replicate the results, while Delisle lets his taste buds tell him how to tweak his cider, as he does when he makes apple or fruit wines.
More than 30 people signed up for the class and got a thorough lesson in fermentology and all the equipment and ingredients they’d need to make a five-gallon batch at home.
The Lindners, however, were just there to audit the class. They decided not to try their luck by taking a bucket of cider and all that equipment on the plane back to Ohio.
What they did take home was the knowledge they’d gained about the fermentation process.
“We learned all the things we’ve been doing wrong,” said Brad Lindner. “Our first attempt was a five-gallon batch. It sucked, we had to throw it out.”
They’ve since switched to single-gallon batches, to keep from wasting the fermented fruits of their labor.
“Some come out good, others have gone into the vinegar bucket,” he said.
Besides learning what they’ve done wrong in the past, the two learned why their good batches came out the way they did.
“We also learned a lot of the subtle techniques of cider making, like what aspects and qualities various yeasts bring to the flavor of the finished product,” he added. “We’ve produced a pretty good product before, but we want to know just how good we can get it.”
They wanted to see just how good everyone else’s homemade hard stuff was, too.
Later in the day, they planned to head to a hard cider tasting at the Shelburne-Buckland Community Center.
Though the Lindners were glad they made the long trip from Ohio to New England, they did have one complaint about the cross-county festival.
“There are too many things going on that we want to do today,” said Marsha Lindner. “We’re going to have to split up at some point.”
They were far from the only orchard owners visiting Cider Days.
Roian and Pam Atwood, of Moulton Orchard in Standish, Maine, have been in the apple business for two years. They were there for some pointers, too.
Last year, they made their first batch of hard cider.
“We made 50 gallons, and about 50 percent of it was no good,” said Roian Atwood.
They weren’t disappointed, though, because they knew they were rolling the dice when they let nature take its course by only using the yeasts that were already on the apples when they were picked.
“We expected it since it was a wild fermentation.”
This year, they’ll follow the tried-and-true method of pre-treating the cider to get rid of unwanted microorganisms and using specific strains of store-bought yeast.
They think they’ll get plenty of practice this year, since there’s been a bumper crop of apples in the Northeast.
David Rainville can be reached at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279