‘A History of Cider’ by Penny Platts
Apples have been around since at least the Garden of Eden, and there were ‘orchards’ mentioned in the Odyssey, and also in Roman Britain, and ‘cider’ was being made in the Middle Ages, nearly acquiring a prohibition when the name became confused with ‘strong drink’ in a Biblical Translation by the Lollards (? Intentional).
Historically, cider was reputedly associated with longevity and medicinal properties, but although the effect could well have been illusory, the claims were perpetrated by a more recent mass producer.
Serious cultivation of apple trees began after Ambassador Scudamore returned hence from France in the 1600s, with grafts from the variety ‘Red Streak’, and planted them at Holme Lacy. The idea, apart from the flavour of the apple, was to produce small short trees, taking up less space on land of poorer quality, and making harvesting easier.
Popularity lead to Tax Imposition up to the 1830s, and because only 1500 gallons of cider are ‘tax free’ – smaller producers tended to predominate. Alcohol percentages of less than 8% exempted cider from being classed as wine, with higher duties.
Detailed study began in the 1800s with the publication of Pomona by Andrew Knight, and the early Woolhope Club compiled a huge catalogue of apple varieties.
Large scale production of cider began with Westons and Bulmers in the County, and even pears were drafted in producing ‘pear cider’! rather than the more usual ‘perry’ (apparently “any old pears will do”.)
Originally the apple crop was crushed in a horse powered mill, or squashed by straining humans with a press, with the juice collected into vats, and various additions (some unintentional) used to promote fermentation and impart flavour.
However modern production is highly mechanised with fancy machines and stainless steel equipment, with the exception of the maturing vats – made of oak casks, still requiring the ancient craft of the coopers. The whole process is strictly controlled, and consistency rather than variety is the watchword – so by and large you know what you will get, minimizing the perils of a draught of scrumpy acquired at the farm gate in days of yore.
The Orgasmic Cider Company, Saturday 26th October
Great Parton Farm, Eardisley HR3 6NX. Meet at 2pm in their car park
For 350 years cider has been made in Herefordshire and throughout the county there is a strong tradition of farm cider making. Cider production is an agricultural activity which farmers undertake during slack months at the end of the year. The apple and pear orchards are also useful for other farming activities such as grazing stock. Perry is manufactured from the Perry Pear and has seen a revival in recent year. Slightly harder to produce than cider due to the soft nature of pears, Perry requires more tender loving care. However, with some Perry trees cropping to 300 years, twice that expected of an apple tree, this pleasant sweet drink is making a comeback. Penny Platt’s talk on ‘The History of Cider’ will have whet our whistles and now we are able to visit our local cider and perry manufacturer at Little Parton just outside Eardisley on the A4112 road to Leominster. The Orgasmic Cider Company is a family run business based at Great Parton Farm. On our visit we will be shown around the Cider House and told all about the processes of cider and perry manufacture in a traditional small farm based business. The tour will also visit the orchards so stout footwear and perhaps rainwear are strongly recommended. At the end of the tour you will have the opportunity to sample the Orgasmic produce and buy if you wish. This will be the last outing for the History Society this year, there is no charge for the tour, so everyone is encouraged to attend if possible. You may even pick up a nice little tipple.
Dates for your Diary
Friday 18th October
This year’s Society AGM will be held at Kington Primary School starting at 7:30pm prompt. To be followed by two presentations. The Reverend David Gwatkin will talk about his life in the community as a rural vicar and Dr John Rerrie will present his talk on ‘Place names in the Kington area’
Saturday 26th October
Visit to the Orgasmic Cider Company, Great Parton Farm, Eardisley. Meet 2pm in their car park.
Friday 14th March 2014
Visit to Brampton Bryan Hall. The date for this visit has now been confirmed. We currently have 18 Society Members signed up for the visit and are attempting to increase this to 25. Anyone, who has not already shown an interest, and is interested in taking up this opportunity, is invited to contact Mark Wheatland to be added to the list.
Editor: Vera Harrison