If you want to make great cider, you have to use great apples. Nobody knows that more than the makers of Shacksbury Cider, in Vermont. The co-founders, Colin Davis and David Dolginow, have created a Lost Apple Project, where they scout Vermont’s landscape for forgotten apple varieties that during a period of America’s history when the young country was crazy about cider. While most apple farms only grow a handful of varieties today, in the mid-1800s farmers had cultivated thousands of distinct varieties. Shacksbury finds the remnants of these lost apples, harvests a percentage of what they find and grafts sections of the stellar trees to plant in their Lost Apple Orchard, so they can bring the best cider-making varieties back to life.
We haven’t had the chance to try the result of Shacksbury’s Lost Apple Project, which they release every September as bottles of “Lost and Found.” But considering their Farmhouse cider landed at number 11 on our big cider tasting.
Check out the gallery for a peak at Shacksbury’s innovative Lost Apple Project.
1 of 12
Fun fact about these "lost apples:" the tastiest varieties don't make the best cider. When the Shacksbury guys go out scouting, they're looking for small, dry apples with tannins, acidity, sugars, and aromas that will make for great cider.
2 of 12
3 of 12
Prohibition meant the end of most cider fruit orchards. And development in most parts of the country meant that homesteaders' apple trees gave way to new construction and sprawl. But in Vermont, some of the old orchards,still live on in overgrown fields. Apple trees, both wild and those planted by early settlers, still line roads that were never widened.
4 of 12
That's a lot of flannel in that picture.
5 of 12
Last fall, Shacksbury did their Lost Apple pressing at Windfall Orchards in Cornwall, Vermont.
6 of 12
After foraging, the fruit "sweats" for several days until it's pressed.
7 of 12
8 of 12
Shacksbury runs long, slow, low intervention fermentations, utilizing the yeast that comes in on the apples. The focus is on finding the best fruit, and then letting the fruit work its magic.
9 of 12
10 of 12
If Shacksbury finds apples that are truly spectacular, they go back in the spring and take scion wood from those trees. That wood is then grafted onto rootstock in their "Lost Apple Orchard," making it easier to grow these varieties in larger numbers.