In the Garden of Eden

/ August 7, 2015

Eleanor and Albert Leger first tasted ice cider in Montreal in 2006. They were surprised to learn that nobody in Vermont was making this wonderful elixir, so in April 2007, they bought an abandoned dairy farm in West Charleston, Vermont. They planted 300 apple trees and thus fulfilled their lifelong dream of owning – and working – an apple orchard. That dream became reality in the form of Eden Vermont Ice Cider Company. Eleanor and Albert hired Mark, an organic dairy farmer, to till the pasture where the new orchard blocks would go in. He spread composted manure from his grass-fed cows, mixed with some lime and potash. The guys put up a “…honking big deer fence to keep out the honking big deer and the even bigger moose that frequented the farm.”

Like its neighbor to the north in southern Quebec where ice cider originated, Vermont has the same growing season and long, cold winters. Ice cider is not the same as ice wine where the grapes are harvested after being allowed to freeze on the vines, since few apples naturally stay on trees until frozen. But the taste of an ice cider is unique and intoxicating. It reveals the purest essence of the fruit. The final quantity of ice cider produced is usually less than ¼ of the original amount of juice pressed. It takes more than 8 pounds of apples to make one 375ml bottle of ice cider!

Classified as a dessert wine, Eden’s ice ciders pair beautifully with artisanal cheeses, apple cake with caramel sauce, bread puddings, maple crème brûlée, and sticky toffee pudding. Yet it is equally complementary to foie gras, duck or pork terrine and pate. Ice ciders are best enjoyed chilled to between 46-52 degrees and served in small port or sherry glasses. If you missed Teller Wines’ Eden Vermont Ice Cider dinner at Michy’s Relaxed Dining last year, you will be forgiven. I understand that Rehoboth’s own Eden restaurant and Henlopen City Oyster House frequently host ice cider dinners.

So, you might ask, how do they make ice cider? According to Eleanor, here’s a quick rundown of the process:
•    Apples are harvested from their trees at peak ripeness and kept in cold storage until the onset of consistently cold winter temperatures.
•    Apples are pressed, and the juice is set outdoors to freeze for 6 – 8 weeks.
•    The freezing and melting-off process results in a residual concentrate that is naturally high in sugar and flavor, typically 32 – 40 brix. [Brix is a unit of measurement used by chefs, winemakers, candy and ice cream  makers to measure the sugar content of a product. –ed.]
•    The concentrate is fermented at 50 – 55 F over several weeks or months.
•    The fermentation process is terminated and the final product is cold-stabilized, filtered and bottled.
•    The resulting product is typically 8 – 11% ABV (alcohol by volume), with 12 – 15% residual sugar.

Eleanor and Albert never add sugar, coloring or flavoring of any kind to their ice ciders. Mother Nature provides the flavor concentration using northern Vermont’s icy winters to balance sweetness with acidity. With temperatures outside soaring, I can’t think of a more enjoyable treat than sipping on an ice-cold glass of ice cider with your next meal.
Of course, Teller Wines carries the Heirloom Blend, the Honeycrisp, and Eden’s Sparkling Cider. The Heirloom Blend contains 11 traditional and heirloom apples. True to its name, the Honeycrisp is made with 100% Vermont-grown Honeycrisp apples.

Our customers from New England always ask for the Eden Vermont Ice Ciders or they are ecstatic when they realize we carry them. We also have cocktail recipes using Eden Vermont Ice Ciders you can try at home.

Catherine Hester

About the Author

co-owner of Teller Wines in Lewes, DE with her husband Kevin, is a world traveler and shares their adventures at various wineries while offering thoughts on why she and Kevin order particular wines for their customers. Learn more about the Hesters by clicking here. View all articles written by Catherine Hester

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