The Lost Apples - Fall 2022 Story Collection celebrates the colors of the autumnal apple harvest and is inspired by Shacksbury Cider’s Lost Apple Project, which preserves Vermont’s heritage apples by turning them into great cider.
Shacksbury Cider is a craft cidery in Vermont’s Champlain Valley. Since 2013, Shacksbury co-founders Colin Davis and David Dolginow, along with a committed group of apple enthusiasts, have been scouring local fields and farms in search of Vermont’s forgotten apple orchards. If you know where to look, evidence of these heritage orchards can be found throughout rural Vermont.
In the mid-19th century there were over 1,100 apple varieties documented in North America. A few varieties of crab apples are native to North America and were known to have been used by the Native Americans. Most of New England’s apple varieties were introduced via seeds and cuttings brought over by European settlers. Many of these early apples were turned into cider, a fermented beverage that can be up to 7% alcohol.
European Crab Apple, image courtesy of http://treesplanet.blogspot.com/
Early Vermont orchards were established by homesteaders, who staked their claims by building modest structures and establishing apple orchards on their land. According to Lyman Matthews’ “History of the Town of Cornwall,” published in 1862:
“No one of the comforts of life was more promptly provided for by the first settlers, than a supply of fruit, especially of apples. This is apparent in the numerous and extensive orchards which once graced almost every farm, but which are now unhappily too often going to decay with but comparatively little effort to secure a re-supply. Clumps of apple trees, some of which are still vigorous and productive, point out the sites once occupied by the cabins of settlers.”
Homestead in Putney, Vermont, 1886. Note the mature maple trees in the foreground, and apple trees near the building to the right. Image source: New England Historic Genealogical Society.
During the Prohibition era from 1920 to 1933 - when the manufacture, transportation and sale of intoxicating liquors was banned – many of Vermont’s orchards were abandoned. Over time, the breadth and variety of heritage apples available in New England and North America diminished as hybridization efforts favored the sweet baking and fresh eating varieties over the often bitter cider apples.
U.S. Bureau of Prohibition officers, 1930. Image source: Library of Congress.
David and Colin first noticed evidence of these forgotten orchards in the spring of 2013, while driving around Addison County, which was bursting with apple blossoms. An unusually late frost in 2012 had destroyed the local apple crop, and the trees had come back in force that spring. This piqued their interest in the wild and heritage apples that were once ubiquitous in the valley, and they learned through extensive research and discussions with local orchardists about the history of Vermont’s rich cider apple varieties.
As with any preservation technique, cidermaking was a way to maximize the longevity of the apple harvest, as a well-made cider can last for years. Cidermaking, like winemaking, is deeply connected to the terroir of the land, which comes through in the flavor of the apples and the finished cider. Wild and heritage apples differ from the hybrid eating varieties, which lack the tannins and flavors necessary to make great cider. The combination of dry, bitter, sour and tannic qualities of the apples, in addition to the wild yeasts found on the fruit, can impart unusual and complex flavors to a finished cider.
Shacksbury values the unique flavors of heritage apples and creates a line of special terroir driven ciders each fall sourced from wild apples found in the Champlain Valley. In partnership with Windfall Orchards and Sunrise Orchards in Cornwall, Vermont, they have cultivated 10 varieties of wild apples that they utilize for their cellar release and specialty lines. “Deer Snacks” is a customer favorite, which David describes as a dry and fun-loving cider. This canned specialty release is now in its 6th vintage and each year features a different label created by a local artist. You can order Deer Snacks and other Shacksbury ciders through their new online cider shop: https://shacksbury.taprm.com/products/deer-snacks
What has Shacksbury learned after years of foraging, cultivating, and pressing wild apples? At the end of the day, the reason that heritage and wild apples work well for their ciders is because they have found exceptional varieties that provide the unique flavors they are looking for in a specialty cider. One of the main reasons North America has lost the majority of its heritage apple varieties is due to hybridization practices that seek to reduce the common apple to a predictably large and sweet fruit. We appreciate how Shacksbury, through the Lost Apple Project, does the opposite, bringing visibility to Vermont’s lost apples and preserving the region’s rich cider making tradition, which in return is helping to expand the palette of cider apples available to make interesting and complex ciders.
The Lost Apples - Fall 2022 Story Collection includes four mini skeins (each approx. 25g) of worsted weight 100% superwash wool milled in the US. The collection can be ordered from the Quill & Quiver Fiber web shop beginning on October 23, 2022. Follow us on Instagram for more details @quillandquiverfiber
The colorways in the collection are:
|Sheep’s Nose - A rich and vibrant apple red dappled with flecks of olive green, bright pink and orange.|
|Baldwin - This variegated red is composed of equal parts of muted maroon, lime green, fuchsia, and tangerine.|
|Bramley’s Seedling - Bright grass green with muted burgundy, russet and yellow - quintessential apple colors.|
|Tolman Sweet - A “barely there” green with light blush and pale chartreuse undertones.|
Sources of more information:
- Shacksbury Cider’s Lost Apple Project: https://www.shacksbury.com/lost-apple-project
- Try Shacksbury’s “Deer Snacks”, cider made from wild apples from Vermont’s Addison Valley: https://shacksbury.taprm.com/products/deer-snacks
- Matthews, Lyman. “History of the Town of Cornwall.” Cornwall, VT: Mead and Fuller, 1862.
- Watson, Ben. “Cider, Hard and Sweet: History, Traditions, and Making Your Own.” The Countryman Press, 2013.
- Windfall Orchards: https://windfallorchardvt.com/
- Sunrise Orchards: https://sunriseorchards.com/
All images courtesy of Shacksbury Cider and Quill & Quiver Fiber. Copyright: Quill & Quiver Fiber, 2022. All Rights Reserved.