When making cider, the fresh-pressed juice options flow.
In a perfect cider world, all cidermakers would have a flourishing orchard in the backyard, brimming with opulent fruit containing balanced acids and juicy tannins. The reality is not all those who have the desire to make and access to equipment also have large orchards right outside their doors, overflowing with said apples.
That’s where these guys come in.
“We sell cider to some of the top 10 cider manufacturers in tanker quantities,” says Jerry LaBant, the Ingredients Sales Manager at Knouse Foods. “We also supply some of the smaller cider companies with our fresh juice in shelf-stable drums.”
Knouse Foods is a grower-owned cooperative, with most of its plants in Pennsylvania and another in Michigan. Formed in 1949, the co-op now has more than 100 family growers in membership, all nurturing orchards for fresh-pressed apple juice.
In early 2014, Knouse started packing their Fresh Pressed Apple Juice in large 55-gallon drums, for bulk purposes in response to an incredible shift in industry—courtesy of hard cider and the want to make from fresh juice.
As those of us who are die-hard cider lovers, we know that this is an exciting time in history for cider. With cideries popping up across North America at exponential rates and consumers downing the drink, cities are welcoming popular cider-celebrations and festivals, many of them confidently dubbed as annual events that will reoccur and expand in following years.
According to the Northwest Agriculture Business Center, United States cider production increased from 1.2 million gallons in 2010 to 2.5 million gallons in 2011. That’s more than a 100 percent increase in one year alone. A spike in the demand for cider means a growth in really good, fresh fruit juices.
In regards to making cider, LaBant reflects on childhood memories of frozen orange juice concentrate that required mixing with tap water and getting variable results. “Sometimes it was sweet, then other times it was so tart. Then one day, you tasted fresh-pressed juice and you never looked back,” he says. “While we’re talking apples and oranges here, this analogy holds true.”
For many, inconsistency in flavor from using apple juice concentrate is not something cidermakers can afford. “Having consistency gives cidermakers the peace of mind that their product will taste the same each time,” says LaBant.
Knouse Foods is one of several farmer-fueled juicers providing bulk, quality product to cidermakers across North America, creating a growing market for aspiring makers. While some producers do have the resources for “branch-to-bottle” orchard-fresh juice, others have fostered a community of businesses—from apple growers, tree nurseries, equipment providers and more—all invested in creating great cider products.