THE 2011 CIDER SEASON
What a difference a year makes! At this time 12 months ago, we were facing a significant drought. Conditions were so dry throughout the late spring and through the summer that by August we were desperately resorting to Gator Bags, plastic sacks that wrap around the tree trunks and slowly drip water, straw mulching and old-fashioned water buckets to help our most valued trees hang on. Fortunately, we had no casualties and, finally, rainfall returned in the autumn.
So what about this year? The weather did a 180. This summer has been one of the wettest in memory and we’re left hoping that we don’t have a weather pattern like the one we saw about five years ago when it rained on at least one day of 10 of the 12 weekends we were open!
In terms of apple production, the extremely wet weather provides a fertile environment for funguses which can leave the skin of apples looking less than appetizing. We have been pretty successful in coping with sooty blotch and other annoying cosmetic conditions, and all of the apples are good for cider. The excessive water and concurrent lack of sunlight tends to produce larger and somewhat less sweet apples. So we are leaving the apples on the trees for as long as possible to help bring up their sugar content.
Our own crop is somewhat smaller than the last two years. As many of you know, we have many bi-annual bearing trees, meaning there are heavy crops one year followed by very light crops the next. Many of the old heirloom varieties we have planted are bi-annual bearers and this is an off-year for quite a few of our trees. That said, we still have a lot of apples and we will augment our own with additional local fruit as we traditionally do.
The apple crop for the Hudson Valley is abundant and we expect to have our usual wide-range of varieties for eating apples and blending for cider. At the suggestion of one of our customers, while we were visiting our son and his family in Seattle last winter, we visited one of the surprisingly few cider mills in that area. The Minea Cider Mill in Woodinville produces single-variety ciders, i.e., 100% Fuji, that are interesting. Time permitting we may try a limited number of single-variety runs during the course of this season, but we will always have our regular multi-variety blend.
This will be our 35th year. For the last 14, Teddy our Australian Shepherd has been a fixture at the mill. While he is no longer very limber and has gotten hard of hearing, he is still plugging along, so he will join us in welcoming you back -- but with a lot less barking!
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