Fruit Forum

Cider Apples - new book by Liz Copas

Photo - see caption

Jim Chapman reviews the recently published book on cider apples by Liz Copas

When thinking of cider apples the name Liz Copas immediately springs to mind, having been closely associated with the fruit for more than 30 years – first at Long Ashton Research Station, then more recently as adviser to the National Association of Cider Makers. Cider Apples, the New Pomona is a book enthusiasts have been waiting for – a worthy successor to her earlier work on the cider apples of Somerset.

It is a practical book displaying the experience of someone who has worked with apples for many years. Add to this the cider notes from the Long Ashton trials and elsewhere, it provides the guidance to encourage producers to experiment with different varieties. It is a manual that will come to be regarded as essential reading for all artisan cider producers wanting to explore the potential offered by the wide range of apples growing in 'Ciderland'.

It is also a useful guide for conservationists. Rescuing rare varieties is only part of the challenge. Effective longer term conservation of local orchard fruit (a part of our heritage as well as a genetic resource) will only be achieved if the fruit is used, which will encourage further planting. This book assists this aim by describing the qualities of the juice with a comment on its potential as a cidermaking variety.

Most of all it is a manual for the cider enthusiast eager to explore and understand regional variations. It provides guidance to the different varieties and comments on the preferred tastes of a district and the varieties that produce that taste.

The early chapters review the nature of the cider apple, its history, distribution and characteristics. This provides a cidermaker with a good understanding of the fruit available and the potential to enhance the cider by the blending with different apple varieties. Then follows a brief history and summary of the work undertaken by Long Ashton, of which Liz was a part for 20 years.

An introduction to the challenges of fruit identification follows, including a key based upon the shape and colour of the fruit. This, in conjunction with the earlier description of the cider apple and the process of propagation, should enable a reader to have a stab at identifying the fruit in question, avoiding such common pitfalls as fruit growing below the graft. There is also a section that describes the search for local Dorset varieties that will be invaluable for those wishing to do the same in their own area.

The main part of the text contains detailed descriptions of over 130 apple varieties found in the counties of the south-west and west midlands. In a separate section are grouped colour photographs of the fruit. Most of these show a group of fruit in sufficient detail to assist identification, but a few are less useful in this respect. Some will regret that the apple illustrations are not reproduced alongside their descriptions.

This is a book to be read, not left on the shelf. At a modest price it is not merely a manual for the enthusiastic cidermaker, and a useful tool for those seeking to conserve their local varieties, but a fascinating guide for everyone who enjoys a glass of cider!

Jim Chapman

Cider Apples, the New Pomona by LIz Copas, published 2013; printed by Short Run Press Ltd, Exeter; pp158; many colour plates and line drawings illustrating each variety described; £16.50; SBN 978-0-9568994-2-2