Cider-lovers take heart. The Michigan Apple Committee has noted that this year's apple crop is estimated to be more than 28 million bushels, rivaling last year's record harvest of 30 million bushels. After the poor harvest of 2012, caused by a mild winter, soaring spring temperatures, and subsequent late frosts, this is good news for apple-lovers, pie-makers, and Michigan's growing hard cider industry.
We spoke with Mike Beck, co-owner and president of Uncle John's Fruit House Winery in St. John's. He told us that 2012's lousy harvest has obvious ramifications, saying, "Well, you know, just like anything else, prices go up when the supply goes down." So would that mean he'd get his apples from another state?
"I would almost rather practically kill myself," he told us.
Why? Because, he says, "Almost anything grown outside Michigan lacks flavor. Other states grow big, gorgeous, beautiful apples, but Michigan has a definite niche. It's called a variety state for a reason. They are superior for food. They may not be big and gorgeous like the apples grown in Washington state, but if they taste like cardboard, there's no value in them for making cider."
Beck points out that Michigan apple growers have varieties that you won't see on store shelves, such as Idareds, Winesaps, Rhode Island Greenings, and when you make hard ciders, these kinds of apples are key. And with millions of pounds of these heirloom fruits going into the presser this fall, we're assured a steady supply of the strong stuff to warm us this winter.