David Pickering learned many apple cider lessons while living in England during the 1970s.
- A cider apple enthusiast and the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries have established one of the largest collections of cider apples
- The vast majority of cider makers use table apples because it is difficult to find alternative varieties
- Cider apple trees are being propagated to help expand the industry.
Upon his return to New South Wales, he was surprised to learn that few growers used specific apple varieties for cider, relying instead on the popular Pink Lady, Granny Smith or Gala apples, which were not best suited for cider. process.
The Australian cider industry has long relied on table apples or imported juice concentrate to create its popular products, but there is a push to change that.
Pickering has been on a decades-long quest to find European apple species that aren’t particularly appetizing to eat, but, due to their balance of acidity and sugar, are perfect for creating the spirit.
As a hobbyist, Pickering is now home to 34 types of apple trees that he found all over Australia on his property in west central New South Wales, outside Orange.
About half of them originate from England and the other half are from France.
Keep DNA safe
But, worried that his collection might one day be lost when he finally passes away, Pickering teamed up with the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (DPI) to duplicate it at their nearby research station.
“There is no one stop shop to go and get the cider varieties,” he said.
The DPI Temperate Fruits team started growing apple trees in 2019 and is now ready to start a breeding program.
Budwood cuttings are available for those who wish to establish them in a bid to get more cider makers to use locally grown produce.
A changing market
Cider sales have skyrocketed in Australia in recent years.
But Pickering says that as little as 8 percent of the product bottled here comes from cider-specific trees.
He would like to see that number down to around 30 percent.
“It’s not going to happen quickly, but it’s going to happen gradually,” Pickering said.
“Nowadays there is much more interest in cider varieties because it is a point of difference.”
He describes the Australian cider landscape as a very different environment from Europe, where large industrial producers use cider trees.
It is a trade very similar to winemaking.
“When [the apple] it’s ripe, you have to crush it, press it, get the juice and make the cider,” Pickering said.
“You can’t mess around and do it six months later.”
But it can take around five years to harvest a crop, making it difficult to convince cider producers to make the leap from table apples.
Grow trees to grow business
NSW Department of Public Information horticulturist Aphrika Gregson has been packaging cuttings and shipping them to growers across Australia.
It took three years to get to this point and Ms. Gregson says there has been a lot of demand.
“When you use a cider apple, you can introduce more interesting flavor profiles,” he said.
“It just makes for a more interesting cider.”
DPI’s cider apple block will eventually become a harvesting and growing demonstration site and collection point.