The year 2020 is shaping up to be a pretty unusual one for most of us. I, for one, expected to be traveling to cider destinations around the world and instead have found myself homebound. So I’ve been reorganizing the pantry and planting a vegetable garden that will feed a small village, among other localized pursuits.
If you, too, have been feeling a little housebound, maybe it’s time for a good book. The right one can not only entertain, but can transport us to other vistas, at least in our minds. Here are a few of my favorite cider reads that do just that.
“Fine Cider, Understanding the World of Fine, Natural Cider” by Felix Nash
At the top of my list is “Fine Cider.” Nash, a London cider merchant, sets out to introduce his reader to the world of ciders that he loves, those made by small producers committed to creating drinks expressive of their place and time. He shares much good information about history and process and touches on a number of historic cider regions of the world.
Where this book really shines, though, is in his descriptions of the places and people he visits. His prose is lyrical and expressive, painting word pictures that take the reader right into the middle of his world. We feel petals settle on our cheek while wandering through a spring orchard and smell the salt in the air as he shares a bottle of cider and a plate of oysters on a rocky Devonshire beach. It might not be exactly like being there, but it comes as close as anything I can think of.
“Uncultivated, Wild Apples, Real Cider, and the Complicated Art of Making a Living” by Andy Brennan
“Uncultivated” also explores a landscape, that of a small part of New York’s Hudson Valley, one full of 18th century homestead orchards and forests of their feral descendants. But it’s more than that. A highly personal book, it traces Brennan’s path from his early years as a young painter in the open spaces of north New Jersey to starting and running his small company, Aaron Burr Cidery.
Along the way we learn of his deepening love and respect for the apple trees themselves, his sense that they have personalities and a consciousness of their own that exists outside our understanding. He goes even further, exploring thoughts on modern industrial agriculture and whether or not it is really an indication of “progress.” It’s a thought-provoking read that stayed with me for some time after the book itself was done.
“The New Cider Maker’s Handbook; A Comprehensive Guide for Craft Producers” by Claude Jolicoeur
This book has been out some years already, and it isn’t really the sort of book you want to lose yourself in on a rainy day. Well, perhaps it would be for some, since it’s simply the best cider how-to manual available to date. If you make a little cider of your own, or have thought about it, this book needs to be on your bookshelf.
Jolicoeur, a dedicated amateur cider maker and orchardist, spent many years of hands on research before setting out to put it all into published form. Though there are other good cider making manuals out there, this one tops them all because it truly is, as the title announces, comprehensive. There isn’t a cider making topic or technique that isn’t included, though not always in great depth if the author hasn’t spent a lot of time personally with it. “The New Cider Maker’s Handbook” is a read that can both inspire dreams for the next year’s harvest and give the reader the tools to make those dreams come true.
Not feeling quite up to reading a whole book? Then consider a great magazine instead. The premier choice is Cidercraft, of course, but the lesser known, small circulation zines Graftwood and Malus can also inform, amuse and take us out into the world again, at least in our imaginations.