This document is a discussion of the varieties of apples which are or have
been used for the production of cider. For details on how to make cider, please
consult the cider
making guide; for a history of cider making and apple growing in the UK,
please consult the apple and cider history
Disclaimer. This document is for information only. The contents are as
accurate as I can make them but no liability is accepted.
Cider quality inevitably depends on the type of apple
used. Cider is traditionally made with one third each of sweet,
bittersweet, and sharp apples. The principle characteristics of
cider apples which contribute to this classification are the content of phenolic
compounds (tannins) and the acidity. Bittersweet apples contain more than 0.2%
(w/v) of tannins and less than 0.45% (w/v) acidity (calculated as malic acid).
Sharp apples have less than 0.2% (w/v) tannins and greater than 0.45% (w/v)
acidity; a subgroup of this classification, bittersharps, have the same range of
acidity but have a tannin content of greater than 0.2% (w/v). Sweet apples have
less than 0.2% (w/v) tannins and less than 0.45% (w/v) acid.
There are a great many varieties of apple which
you can use for cider making, most of them now very rare. Many exist only in
abandoned orchards or people's backgardens where they go largely unnoticed.
However, the National Fruit Trials preserve examples of all of these varieties.
There are probably only ten or so varieties of apples widely grown for cider
making. If you do have access to examples of the rarer varieties mentioned in
the lists, then do try making cider with them, different apples give
distinctively different ciders; and also, don't forget to post your recipe to
the Real Cider and Perry recipes page!
Apple According to Type
You will see from the lists that there
are far fewer varieties of bitterweet apples than of any other type, however, if
you are making single variety apple cider, these are the apples you would use to
achieve the best cider. Most modern cider makers making cider in the traditional
manner will use one or more varieties of bittersweet apples.
These lists are taken straight from
The Fruit Manual, 5th edition, 1884 by Dr. Robert Hogg who was the
Vice-President and Secretary of the The Royal Horticultural Society. Dr. Hogg
also wrote the Herefordshire Pomona and was responsible for identifying and
preserving the majority of British apples. His contributions to apple growing
and the revival of the cider industry cannot be underestimated.