For many people in Vermont, cold weather comes with the territory. But for the Leger family, it's a necessity.
They produce Eden Ice Cider, a fermented alcoholic drink, on their West Charleston property. "It's something that takes advantage of the cold weather in Vermont and we've been growing apples here for centuries," said Eleanor Leger.
Harvested apples are left in fresh storage until December when the chill hits -- that's when the fruit gets pressed. This concentrated juice is stored in 300 gallon tubs and left to freeze naturally outside. "Apple juice is about 9-percent sugar and we get to about 38-percent sugar with this process," said Albert Ledger.
"It takes a 4-6 week period for the juice to freeze outside," Eleanor Leger said.
The juice has to freeze into a solid block, then it's thawed and the juice that melts first is the fermented alcoholic drink that becomes ice cider. It takes eight pounds of apples to make just one bottle. "There's no commercial refrigeration used. we add no additional sugar or flavor -- it's just apples, cold weather and a little bit of yeast," Eleanor Leger said.
Demand is growing for this fruity alcoholic beverage. Four years ago they produced 12-hundred bottles, This year they will make 22-thousand. They team up with local farmers to keep up -- like Bill Shur of Champlain Orchards in Shoream. "It's a very safe relationship where we talk years ahead of time about which varieties are needed and what quantities," Shur said.
And for Shur, the timing for increased business couldn't be better. The growing season is over and this helps him get rid of bruised apples. There's a real thirst for ice cider, so Suhr has actually started making his own varieties at the Leger's. "This is a cool time period -- between Thanksgiving and Christmas where we have a lull naturally," Shur said.
A cool time period, but not cool enough. This years warm winter has them crossing their fingers for snow. At the start of the season they were a week behind schedule in the fermenting process.
"We'll toast some ice cider from last year and all will be well a week from now," Shur said.
This ice cider definitely has a zing -- it's rich and sweet. A Vermont product made in winter, that helps toast the chilly weather.
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