When they first settled in New England centuries ago, early Yankees planted tons of apple trees — but they weren’t necessarily for eating. Hard cider was a dietary staple, swilled from breakfast to bedtime.
Like many locals, Colin Davis and David Dolginow of Shoreham noticed those seemingly forgotten apple trees in fields and woods, laden with unknown varieties. This year, the pair — who have serious homesteading and orchard chops between them — have been plucking the apples from old trees and documenting them for an endeavor called the Lost Apple Project.
“This is one of the best places in the world to grow apples. We’ve identified 60 individual trees so far, and found some incredible [apples],” says Davis, who is partnering with Twig Farm and Sunrise Orchards on the project. “We found one in particular that tastes very much like lemonade.”
David and Dolginow, who are raising funds via Kickstarter, hope to propagate the most “promising” apples and eventually release a cider called 1840 pressed from that fruit. Their aim is to “raise awareness of the wealth of excellent cider apples there are in the state,” Davis adds.
The work also dovetails with Davis and Dolginow’s commercial venture, Shacksbury Cider. Soon to launch with two European ciders, their line will eventually include ciders from the trees they’re planting now.
When they started Shacksbury, the pair realized that the kind of fruit they wanted didn’t yet exist in bulk in the U.S., so they combed England, France and Spain to locate “full-flavored, complex” ciders. Their first cider, from award-winning English cidermakers Simon and Hannah Day, is the Hereford, laced with what Davis calls “savory, smoky and bacon-y notes.” The second cider — an unfiltered, wild-yeast variety from Spain’s Basque country — will be called the Basque and “has a really interesting muskiness,” Davis says. Shacksbury is named for a vanished hamlet that used to exist south of Shoreham, where the company is based.
The two ciders will initially be sold “on a very limited release” to restaurants in Vermont, Boston and New York, Davis says; bottles may follow later, depending on consumer response. “We’re not sure how people are going to react, because it’s so different,” Davis explains.
The original print version of this article was headlined "Forgotten Fruit"
Disclosure: Colin Davis is married to Seven Days staff writer Kathryn Flagg.