Autumn is a glorious time of year, when the apples are ripening on the trees, and the harvest brings home the fruits of the year’s labour.
At Thatchers Cider in Sandford, Somerset, cider apples arrive at the mill from September through to November, when they are pressed straight away and the juice is turned into beautiful Somerset cider.
The experienced cider maker’s at Thatcher’s Myrtle Farm have been producing cider for four generations, and over thirty different varieties of apples are grown for this purpose. The jewel of Thatcher’s apple crown is its Exhibition Orchard, a living library home to over 458 different types of apple tree.
With so many apple varieties to choose from, Thatcher’s cider makers are spoilt for choice and busy themselves each Autumn making a diverse range of ciders. But one thing that all their drinks have in common is that they are all made with a passion for the apple. Here are just a few examples of the apples that you might find in their orchard:
The traditional Redstreak cider apple has been grown in Somerset since the 16th century. This red and yellow striped bittersweet apple is one of Thatcher’s cider makers’ favourites and they use it in many of their traditional ciders, including the eponymous Thatcher’s Redstreak. The variety lends its bold and peppery flavours to cider, leaving drinkers with the taste of spicy apple pie on their palate. To make Thatcher’s Redstreak cider, a traditional cider making technique called cuvage is used, where the apples are milled and held for a day before pressing out the juice, helping the drink to develop its characteristic flavour. Thatcher’s recommend enjoying a glass of Redstreak with a mature Cheddar cheese, or a hearty lasagne.
The Dabinett apple variety is named after Mr William Dabinett, who first came across this bittersweet apple in Somerset in the early 1900s. It has a rich, red skin and adds tannin and depth of character to a cider. The Dabinett apple is chosen for many of Thatchers ciders, including the oak matured Vintage Cider. Thatchers Vintage is a softly rounded and mature cider with a depth of character coming from the selected apples, so when considering the best food to pair with it, choose bold, savoury foods such as smoked fish or meat, or an aromatic curry.
Thatcher’s use both bittersweet and dessert apples in their ciders to create drinks that appeal to varied tastes. The Jonagold apple is a dessert (or eating) variety that brings a touch of sweetness to cider. It’s a beautifully juicy apple, that has distinctive red stripes interlaced over its golden skin. In Thatchers Haze cider, Jonagold not only adds refreshingly crisp notes, but it also lends the cider its natural haze. Enjoy this particular cider with a juicy burger, or if the sun’s out, just relax with a glass in hand.
The trees laden with Katy apples are always some of the first to be harvested at Thatcher’s Myrtle Farm. The Katy apple brings crispness and freshness to the award-winning Katy single variety cider, and also to the cidermaker’s very special celebratory sparkling apple wine, Thatchers Family Reserve. The Katy apple is a fine dessert fruit and this bright red apple is a cross between the Worcester Pearmain and James Grieve, providing the perfect balance between acidity and sweetness. A crisp, cold Thatchers Katy cider is the ideal accompaniment to a delicate fish such as sole and plaice.