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Making cider the hard way

Debbie, left, and Julie Everett have been selling hard apple cider since 2004.

Debbie, left, and Julie Everett have been selling hard apple cider since 2004. Photo by Shaun Kittle.

PLATTSBURGH — Everett Orchards has given an edge to an autumn tradition.

The sixth-generation farm, settled in 1815, began making hard cider in 2004 using Cortland and McIntosh apples, two apple cultivars not often used for that purpose.

“The apples we started making the hard cider with are more typical of dessert apples,” said cider maker Tom Everett, who co-owns Everett Orchards with Debbie, Julie and Bill Everett.

After attending a class about growing fruit offered by the Cornell Cooperative Extension in 2008, Tom learned that cider variety apples, which are more common in Europe, are ideal for hard cider.

Now, Chisel Jersey, Brown snout, Kingston black and Hereford red streak are some of the apple varieties added to Everett Orchards’ 185 acres of apple orchards.

The apple varieties fall into two main categories: bittersweet and bittersharp.

As the names imply, bittersharp is a little more acidic, has a sharper taste and isn’t as sweet as the bittersweets. The abundance of tannin in the fruit gives it its astringency.

“The cider varieties are exclusively grown for the hard cider; eating them fresh isn’t very good,” Everett said. “A lot of them are a little softer, almost edging toward mealy.”

Most of the hard cider sold at Everett is a mix of apple varieties.

“We don’t grow enough volume of any particular variety to do any single-variety cider in the bittersweet category, so it’s all blends,” Everett said.

The only exception is the single-variety Kingston black, made from a bittersweet cultivar.

“We’ve found that our old, simple cider the Mac/Cortland is still popular, but we think we’ve improved it with a little bittersweet,” Everett said.

The cider is made in late October and fermented through Christmas, and then placed into storage containers and aged for six months before it is bottled.

Currently, Everett Orchards is the only business in the North Country to manufacture hard cider, which it sells from its farm market and cidery on the corner of Rt. 374 and Military Turnpike in Plattsburgh.

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