A few things coming up on us quickly that warrant a little attention:
First, I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to speak about one of my favorite subjects: apple cider. The Chemical Heritage Foundation, located at 315 Chestnut Street in Center City Philadelphia was kind enough to ask me to provide an informative presentation on the making of apple cider, it's history, origins, and everything else related to this celebrated beverage. The event runs between the hours of 5-8pm and is open and free to the public. Samples will be handed out featuring cider pressed that very morning so come by and learn how this stuff is made!
Secondly, we're very proud to contribute to this year's Farmland Feast Online Auction, benefitting FRESHFarm Markets. As many of you know, FRESHFarm maintains and operates farmers markets in the DC/MD area including two of the markets we attend. They also operate several other charitable programs benefitting both local agriculture and the communities we, as local producers, serve. In order to operate and maintain these programs, they depend on the charitable gifts of folks who are behind the local food movement and envision a better community in urban areas through local agriculture. If this sounds like you, we've provided a great way to contribute - a weekend travel package to nearby historic Gettysburg that includes a personalized, private tour of our farm, two nights accomodations at the Historic Gettysburg Hotel, and an evening of dinner and music provided by me, Farmer Ben, and his Garryowen Irish Pub jam night brethren. Bids for this experience can be made at this website and I'm putting my reputation as a farmer and performer on the line to assure you, you'll get your money's worth out of this weekend! Thanks for your support!
Three Springs farmers market shopper and devoted cider enthusiast Erin writes:
"Hi, guys! We are drinking your delicious cider and having an animated conversation about what IS the difference between apple cider and apple juice (and we wondered), what's your opinion on this great debate?"
The question is a great one - and timely, since we were able to roll out a very popular Fuji Apple Juice for our customers this past spring. While the question was pretty clear (like the consistency of, say, apple juice), the answer is a little more murky and mysterious - a quality it shares with apple cider. We're gonna chew on this simple difference and spend a little time on how each is made in the hopes of providing some delicious distinction between the two!
On the surface, the two "apple-y" beverages are not very dissimilar. Both are pasteurized and list as their ingredients only "the juice of apples". As you can see, the difference between cider and juice is pretty minimal. The main difference is the apples used. For the purposes our discussion, I'll explain the difference in our cider and our juice. Our juice, typical of many juices, is a one variety product. We use only Fuji Apples in our juice. They are very sweet and make a palatable juice on their own. The Fuji apple juice is heated in excess of 200 degrees Fahrenheit so it can be shelf-stable bottled without the addition of any preservatives. This also effectively kills whatever bacteria and impurities the product could have contained. The resultant product is much lighter in color and consistency. We like the sweetness of the juice because we know kids love sweet beverages and we figure parents can dig it if they can serve their children a sweet beverage that comes from a local, sustainably raised farm and contains no added sugars! It's common for grocery store apple juices to be filtered to remove any hints and traces of apple sediment from the apple skins. Though they might seem visually unappeeling... er unappealing (can't believe I almost went there), the majority of an apple's nutrition is found in the skin, thus we leave it right where it is. Caveat Emptor: grocery store juices also commonly contain preservatives, sugar ("corn sugar" and otherwise), and apple juice concentrate - concentrate bottlers can import from Turkey, China, etc. without labeling as such.
Cider, on the other hand, is best enjoyed when many apple varieties are present. As a matter of fact, the sheer variety of apple flavors (in addition to Jonathan and other semi-tart base apples) is the not-so-well kept secret to our cider's success. It's cloudy, complex, tart and sweet, and contains all that valuable sediment. Our cider is also UV pasteurized, or "cold" pasteurized. This is vital to flavor preservation, in my opinion. This specialized UV has been proven by Cornell University to be equally effective in removing harmful bacteria as heat pasteurization. Not only is flavor preserved, but this product actively ferments, for all the homebrew/homewine enthusiasts out there which also means all the phytochemicals beneficial to the digestive system are also present!
So in summary, there's not a lot of difference between the two beverages. However, when they're done right, you should be able to tell easily. Juices are clearer in color and consistency - a lighter, monochromatic beverage. Ciders are bold, complex, dark, and more rich in flavor. By definition, they are nearly the same. In execution, they are worlds apart!
Stay tuned to this blog for fun, informative videos on this topic - debuting in the coming weeks!
further "Ask A Grower" readings:
- "Ask A Grower" vol. VI - Grafting Workshop
- "Ask A Grower" vol. V - Proper Apple Storage
- "Ask A Grower" vol. III - Clingstone Peaches vs. Freestone Peaches
- "Ask A Grower" vol. II - Granny Smith Fables
- "Ask A Grower" vol I - Roots & Scions
It's a major award!!!
"Though Saisons and gin spritzes are still dominating our drinking repertoire, we’d be lying if somewhere in the corner of our brains we weren’t thinking of autumn and the cider it will bring. And not just any cider, but the virgin-pure, intensely apple-y cider crafted by Ben Wenk with the Jonagold, Jonathan and Summer Rambo heirlooms grown on his family’s Three Springs Fruit Farm in Adams County, Pa. Wenk, a Penn State agro-ecology grad, once took a cider-making lab there, and the skills stuck. He presses the cider in small batches that are flash- pasteurized with UV light instead of flavor-destroying heat. Because there are no preservatives, the shelf life is a mere two weeks. Not that it ever lasts that long"
It's a great list spanning a wide range of delicious-sounding foods for every appetite. Personally, I can vouch for the unsurpassed quality of the three other "50 must"-ers who are fellow vendors at Headhouse Farmer's Market every Sunday:
- Patches of Star - Goat Cheese Ice Cream, note: I doubt my mother, sister, or I will ever forget the day we learned Elly liked trading for fruit! Best ice cream, hands down!
- Wild Flour Bakery - Sourdough, note: Simply amazing Sourdough bread! Best in Philly and tied in a dead heat with Baltimore's Atwaters as the best breads we trade for each week!
- Hillsacre Pride - Butter, note: Our neighbors! Judy's the best - she's someone I look forward to jokin' around with every week. Everything we've had from their stand has been top notch. Now I read I can preorder Horseradish Cheddar? Just awesome!
So there ya go! It's truly an honor to be recognized and, though I doubt I'll win the contest, I'd super psyched to try some of the other winner's delicious food sometime during the offseason.