For the first time ever, Ireland will celebrate an Irish Cider and Food Day. It’s good news for the Irish cider industry and especially for the country’s craft cider makers. But how long has Ireland been enjoying this delcious drink made from fermenting apples?
Cider making is a tradition in most regions where apples are plentiful. Northern France in particular is well known for apple growing, long time home to country ciders and calvados – a type of brandy liqueur made from apples. It’s thought that the early Normans are responsible for inventing these! Good for them! It’s also believed they probably introduced cider to the UK after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, when William the Conquerer killed King Harold with an arrow through the eye – to become the first Norman king of England. In the west country of England, where cider has been extremely popular for centuries, home made cider was traditionally known as ‘Scrumpy’ – and the word for stealing apples from an orchard was ‘scrumping.’ Back then, ‘scrumping’ for apples was considered a very serious crime!
According to Cider Ireland, the group which represents Ireland’s craft cider brewers, apples have been grown here for over 5000 years. Pips dating back to this time were found in an archeological dig in Co. Meath, and were almost certainly from wild crab apples according to the piece by Mark Jenkinson. But, he continues, it is much further on in history, around the 15th or 16th century, when cultivated apples came to prominence – and it was not until the 17th-19th centuries that any mention of cider was made in writings here. Early Irish ciders were probably made in farmhouses from homegrown apples.
Apples for cider making are not the same as the ones we love to chomp from the fruit bowl. They are more tannic and bitter – a necessary quality to make good cider. Several varieties are generally used to get the perfect blend. Today in Ireland we can hark back to the days of home made cider, with the number of craft ciders now being made in small batches by dedicated artisan makers skilled in their time honoured methods. Craft cider makers in the Good Food Ireland network include Stonewell Cider in Kinsale, Cork, The Apple Farm, Cahir, Co Tipperary, Llewellyn’s in Lusk, County Dublin, Highbank Orchard cider from Co. Kilkenny, Tempted Cider from Co. Antrim, and the Armagh Cider Company in Co Armagh. All make their ciders on site by hand from Irish grown apples. Each one has it’s own individual characteristics, but these craftsmen (and women!) are bound by one common goal – to make cider in the proper way, with Irish apples and traditional means of pressing and brewing. The last number of years has seen a massive interest and resurgence of Irish craft ciders. All these will be celebrated as part of this inaugural Irish Cider and Food Day.
Thursday September 3rd 2015 sees participating venues, including bars, hotels and restaurants, pairing Irish ciders with food across the country, north and south. The Irish Cider and Food Day will have lots of promotional offers for this one day only, with prices starting at just €5.00 for a cider and food pairing in some establishments.
Watch this space for more news as we get it! You can also check Cider Ireland website for more news and Irish craft cider information.