If an apple a day keeps the doctor away what does hard apple cider bring?
You can find out from 1-5 p.m. June 13 at the Friends of the Farms Cider Release Party.
Heather Burger, executive director of FOF, called it one of the first post-COVID-19-pandemic happenings on Bainbridge Island. It will feature tastings, bottle sales and live music by Nic Lofgren and his band.
Sarah Ward, FOF program manager, came up with the idea last fall. Emails were sent out and posters put up, and dozens of families across BI responded by dropping off thousands of apples at Johnson Farm.
“We were deep in the pandemic and thinking about what to do to build community,” Burger said, adding BI has an abundance of apple trees, and much of the fruit often goes to waste. FOF sponsors events throughout the year to promote local food and farming, such as Harvest Fair and farm walks.
BI farmer and ciderist Michael Chick, founder of St.-Lo Cider, pressed, blended, bottled and fermented the 35 cases available. Chick is developing a cider orchard on BI focusing on French and English heritage apples with a Pacific Northwest twist.
Chick has worked in the wine industry for decades, but “got the bug pretty hard” to make hard cider about eight years ago. He attended the Cider Institute of North America in Mount Vernon.
When he told some friends he needed space to experiment with some apple trees, they said, “Experiment on our farm,” he said, adding you don’t hear that every day. He’s planted about 320 fairly young trees on about an acre there.
He said it’s a gradual process, but some of those apples actually were ready for this batch of cider. “You have to train your tree site. You can’t have babies right away,” he explained, adding the entire orchard should be ready to produce in about four years.
Chick said he was amazed by how many apples were donated last fall that ended up making 110 gallons.
“They were piling up in the yard,” he said, it was more than his small operation could handle so he had to get help. But he said those who make hard cider on the island are always helping each other out.
Chick said he loved the variety of apples. “I like to hunt and forage,” he said. “I like to know what everybody has. I’m nosey.”
He added his orchard is knee deep in wildflowers. It’s a very wild, natural farm, and “Bainbridge just digs that kind of thing. I fell into the perfect environment. It’s basically the English Channel.”
Chick said the cider first was put in oak barrels then moved to stainless steel and has been aging for about eight months. He said if the bottles are put in a cellar until Christmas they will be “hitting their peak.”
As for the final product, he said it’s like a “very dry French style. It has a nice, subtle acid undertone with floral notes to it, a lavender. It’s earthy and has a long finish. I let the apples do the talking.”
Friend of Farm
FOF operates the 15 acre Johnson Farm for the city of Bainbridge Island, which also owns four similar farms with land leased out to local commercial farmers. Burger said Johnson Farm is “open forage,” which means people can pick plums, grapes and pears for free. Other farms offer raspberry u-pick in July and pumpkin patch and hay rides in October. FOF’s newest venture is replacing a Christmas tree farm with native plants. When it’s ready, people will be able to “walk through there and pick anything along the trails,” Burger said.
The cider-tasting event Sunday honors the first-ever BI grown community apple cider. Burger said the community apples were blended with traditional European heritage apples. A Cider Tent and fenced area for ages 21 and older will offer hard cider by the glass for $5.
There’s also a free competition for people who make their own cider. The BI Fruit Club is putting on the event to judge home brews. There will be small cash prizes for the top three spots. For details email Ben Upsall at firstname.lastname@example.org
Burger said they decided to have the event outside as “the world is starting to open up a little bit.” She said as she was putting up posters some people were excited that they would not have to wear masks, though people can, and social distancing is encouraged. “This is in-person and isn’t on Zoom, and I actually can come,” she said was their attitude, adding, “There’s plenty of room to spread out and feel comfortable.” She said people can also just drive up and “no contact buy. Everybody’s in a different place right now.”
If the event goes well, FOF hopes to do it again. Burger said no regular apple cider is available because, “It’s a little more challenge from the health department” to make that.
FOF decided on the Lofgren band because it plays jazz and swing standards, which fit the environment. Also, he’s a Bainbridge High graduate, and they like to support the local community. Adding to that, a portion of proceeds will go to the Young Farmer’s Advisory Committee, which supports the next generation of farming on BI.