Think cider making is an antiquated craft that’s the preserve of country bumpkins? Sophie Jennings, cider maker at Thatchers’ fourth generation farm in Somerset, lifts the lid on the tech behind the tradition
There’s so much more to cider making than just pressing apples.
It’s about preserving the quality of the fruit at each stage of the process, from the way the apples reach the farm to the pressing, fermentation, maturation and blending. Fermentation is particularly important as this is when the yeast interacts with the juice and all the beautiful appley aromas are captured.
The better the apples, the better the cider.
We have a saying that ‘the best cider starts in the orchard’ and our farm team and apple growers work amazingly hard throughout the year to produce the best-quality fruit. We use a combination of bittersweet (cider) apples and dessert apples to create an interesting range of ciders.
Cider making is a blend of tradition and innovation.
We have four generations of cider makers behind us at Thatchers – and we still use some of their original recipes. In recent years, we’ve combined traditional methods with modern technology, however, two elements that haven’t changed are the skill of our cider makers and the 150-year-old oak vats used for maturing traditional ciders.
There are a lot of similarities between making cider and wine, not least because both are derived from fruit.
Just as different terroir determines different flavours in wine, the wide variety of apples creates a huge variation in cider styles. We grow 458 different varieties which we expertly blend to create a range of different ciders.
Premium cider, when served in a stemmed glass, makes a good match for a meal. There are no rights or wrongs in food and cider pairing, so it’s great fun to experiment. Try matching Thatchers Gold with a curry (ciders with lower tannins and rounded flavours are perfect with fragrant spiced dishes) or a crisp, cold Katy with seafood.
Cider making comprises both art and science.
Many cider makers come in to the profession with a background in science, and encouraging young people into the industry is something we’re passionate about. Our cider makers visit schools to teach children about the life cycle of the apple and love to see pupils get excited by science.