Rural Myths about cider and cidermaking

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part of the Cider makers FAQ

Debunk your favourite cidermaking legends here:

Contents

"Real Cider should be cloudy"

If there's one thing a 'real' cider shouldn't be, it's excessively cloudy. Most ciders if made with enough care, and given sufficient time to mature, will emerge with at worst a slight natural haziness, and will often fall brilliantly clear. This haze is not caused by suspended yeast particles, but is usually the result of the natural pectin, present in varying quantities in different varieties of apples. It is harmless, and most importantly should not affect the flavour of the cider to a significant degree. Yeast on the other hand, does not enhance the flavour of a cider, and is more likely to dull the clean fruitiness, and not surprisingly, give the cider an unwelcome 'yeastiness'. Once the yeast has done its job, it should sink to the bottom of the fermenter/barrel, which is where it should stay, and despite what some inexperienced bar persons might say, it certainly shoudn't end up in your glass.

"They used to put a Rat in it didn't they?"

No They didn't. Probably since before the time of the great plague, rural folk have held the rat in pretty low regard, and it's hard to imagine why anyone would deliberately want to toss one into their hard-pressed juice. It is of course true that if a barrel was slow to start fermenting, it was sometimes deemed neccessary to add a little nutrient to help things along, and this would likely have been a bit of cheap livestock (rabbit/worn-out cockrel etc.). It may also be true that the odd Rat would inadvertantly fall into an open vat of cider, be unable to get out, and the drowned remains then be found when the vat was emptied in the summer. Of such tales are myths created. The modern cidermaker has the advantage of readily available Yeast Nutrient, and should therefore never have to resort to animal additions, rodent or otherwise.

"Scrumpy' is the name for real cider"

Not always, and not exclusively. Scrumpy has been a popular term for farmhouse cider throughout the westcountry, but there are some industrial scrumpies on the market as well as plenty of Real Cider producers who dislike the term and never use it. The origin of the word is thought to be linked to the verb to scrump which means picking apples from over the wall of a neighbour without consent, in other words stealing, but there is no evidence as to which came first. The OED quotes the origin of 'scrump' as dialect for 'withered apple' [1]

"Drinking real cider sends you a bit funny"

This is a favourite myth pedalled by licensees unwilling to stock a real cider (particularly in the West Country), who may have had a bad experience with customers over-indulging on the local farmhouse cider. Perhaps the origin of this misconception lies in the tendancy for cider, which can sometimes approach the strength of wine, to be drunk by the pint. Any attempt by drinkers of good quality real cider to keep up with beer drinkers in a round will inevitably lead to the cider drinkers behaving a bit more 'funnily' than their peers. There should be no reason why a well made real cider shouldn't have the same effect on the drinker as beer or wine so long as it's taken in moderation.