In Portland, Maine’s East Bayside neighborhood an all but abandoned single-story warehouse bay has been transformed into the Urban Farm Fermentory (or “Ferm” as we locals call it), which is a fermentation, education and engagement center for beverage (cider, and wine) and food (sauerkraut, pickles…) fermentations. Last night I attended a class there led by horticulturalist David Buchanan and Ferm founder Eli Cayer on planting a backyard orchard and making sweet and hard cider.
The back-to-the-land movement in cities (New York, Chicago, Minneapolis) is just that a movement (one I am grateful has begun). In Portland, a large town in a rural state, it is a way of life. People home preserve here because that is how they are rewarded with the best jellies, jams, and mustards. Artisan breads are more often made by someone you wave to on the beach in the morning, cheese arrives in a plastic tub by way of a farmer’s husband who dolls it out at his office (other) job, honey from a neighbor’s backyard hives, and then like the rest of America whatever fresh ingredients we cannot source locally we purchase at a market. Here we actually know (most of the time) the fishermen who caught the seafood we picked up at the local market or fishermen’s coop and are seasoning with lemon, olive oil, and sea salt from the grocer. This “culinary surge” in Portland has become well documented by no less than The New York Times and Bon Appetit.
Eli Cayer, the founder of the Ferm, is a Portland based entrepreneur whose position of connecting communities and encouraging creative sustainable living fits with this environment. Eli worked with a local permaculture farmer (same one who saved my tomato and eggplant) to reclaim the derelict and overgrown lot behind the Ferm and turn it into a micro vertical and raised bed/container urban farm. With Eli’s encouragement several local small businesses and individuals have begun to bond themselves to the Ferm’s platform including: farmers, herbalists, fruit processors, beekeepers, and artists. Some of these individuals conduct workshops at there for people who want to learn season extension, worm composting, beekeeping, and live culture based pickling.
Horticulturalist David Buchanan, makes some of the sweetest cider I have ever tried. A couple weeks ago I stopped by the Ferm to check out the apple pressing festivities and was offered a sample of Dave’s cider. It was as if I was drinking nostalgia – causing a sudden hankering for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. That afternoon I went home with a jug of his excellent cider and today I’ll pick up another at the Portland farmers’ market. For a list of his apple trees (where he sources from and sells seedlings of) visit here.
What I learned in a nutshell. Apple cider is raw pressed apples with no added water or preservatives.
The basics of making apple cider: Obtain apples (if commercially make sure they are organic) and clean. Experiment with blends! Discard spoiled parts, worms (if freshly picked)…Core seeds. Quarter apples. Make sure all equipment (knives, cutting board, apple press or food processor …) is clean. Puree apples and extract juice. ***For step by step instructions visit this site (where you can learn about sugars, yeast…).
For a list of home brewing shops nationwide visit this site. A helpful site for home brewing basics is homebrewing.net. Wild Fermentation is an excellent resource for learning about fermenting, including bottling alcohol ferments.
A lively You Tube video from a Vermont cider mill to get you in the mood (in case you can’t quite see the fall foliage yet where you are) and show you how a mid-size apple cider operation works.