Herefordshire and its main town Hereford were at the center of cider production for centuries. In the 1700s and 1800s between 1 and 3 million gallons of cider were made here. One family has been making it locally since 1790, so it’s still an important product. It’s such a big industry that a complete cider museum with its own cooper’s workshop and lots of huge oak vats can still be seen. Cider making is important to tourism.
Ruth loves hard cider and buys it regularly. I prefer wine. It was such an important industry in Herefordshire that its public houses served no beer or ale. No less a figure than Daniel DeFoe, who wrote the still bestselling Robinson Crusoe and seems to have been something of an expert on cider, observed that it was so cheap that no one complained about the lack of availability of other alcoholic beverages. Cider was so common that some laborers were known to drink 2 gallons of it per day during the busy harvesting season. The ailments that developed were compared to those of lead mine workers, and cider induced colic was common.
Weather conditions around Hereford were perfect for cider production. It was mild here in the spring, so damaging frosts were less likely to kill the blossoms. Summers were warm with lots of rain. Soil is less important than general weather for apple trees to thrive. For a long time the Redstreak apple variety was found growing wild in the area and was thought to be the best cider apple, but now the Kingston Black is considered the best to make cider. The busy time for making local cider was October to January when traveling cider makers flocked to Hereford.
Many people from Poland emigrated to this area to help out during cider making time, put down roots, and stayed. They did not pick apples. The system was highly automated in that the trees were shaken and apple gatherers collected and sorted the fallen fruit. The actual process of cider making is simple and involves only 3 steps: milling, pressing, and fermenting. It was not unusual for 100 gallons of cider a day to flow from production here.
I could go on, but a visit to a cider making museum like the one in Hereford is better. Local cider makers became the official reps of the Queen and made cider for her consumption and the delight of her guests. I learned here that Downton Abbey really existed. It’s mentioned in several displays.
This museum has lots of barware and cider glasses on display, and wandering around makes it pretty obvious that this town was once an important source of cider production. This museum attempts to turn everyone into an expert as visitors tour ancient cellars and are given cider samples to drink at the end if desired. Cider brandy was also made here.
PS Perry is cider made from pears.