EXTENSION CORNER: How ‘bout them cider apples? NY producers innovate for flavor

Staff reports
The Chronicle-Express

Cider Week Festivals are taking place May 15-31

Cornell doctoral student Adam Karl harvests apples from a hard cider variety trial at Cornell Orchards in September.

The New York Cider Association recently announced its annual Cider Week Festivals, the first of which began May 15. They will run through May 31.

In the U.S. alone, the hard cider market has increased more than tenfold in the past decade and Gregory Peck, assistant professor of horticulture in Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, has been exploring ways to increase the quality and quantity of New York-grown cider apples.

Prof. Gregory Peck

Peck is leading efforts to construct a database of over 350 cider apple varieties that have been analyzed for field performance and juice quality. He’s also conducting rootstock trials to identify the apple varieties that are best suited for New York.

Peck says, “We continue to see new cider apple orchards being planted throughout New York. To support these new plantings, we have been investigating how orchard management can increase fruit quality that ultimately leads to improved ciders for consumers.

“New York has an incredible diversity of apple varieties. Our cider producers continue to learn how to mix and match these apples to create ciders with an incredible depth of flavor. Consumers can now find ciders with one, two, or even dozens of different types of apples listed on the package. We know that consumers buy their wines based on where they are produced and what varieties are used. Our cider producers work hard to educate consumers that the same criteria can be important for ciders.

“Cider is a year-round beverage. However, there are different cider styles that can be tried at different times of the year. As we head into summer, I’m particularly fond of ciders with a bit more acidity and a touch of residual sugar. These types of ciders pair really well with barbecued foods on warm summer evenings.”