Know all the ins and outs of the cider’s world and enjoy this product in a land of apple trees and cider cellars.
Cider elaboration and consumption in Asturias has taken place from inmemorial times, although to track its origin is a difficult task sice there are no documents which could offer certain reliability on the matter. We have to go back to the Middle Ages in order to find concrete documents of this particular drink. From that moment on, a good number of details can be found regarding cider and apple in this land.
Besides, it is known that the spreading of the cider-apple culture started out in XIII century, when traditional fruit trees, which used to be organge and lemon trees, couldn`t stand the competence from Levante regions and thus, were substitued by apple orchards.
Cider has been and still is an undisputable protagonist and it is unthinkable to find a family reunion, feast or fair, no matter how small or big it is, without finding a spontaneous “escanciador” delighting with his/her good skill, and of course the best cider.
The use of quality apples is the warranty for a good cider; not all of them have the same value and that is why it is convenient to mix them proportionally. For example, two thirds of bitter apples and one third of seet ones will produce a thicker and more astringent cider; with an inverted proportion will will get a clearer cider with a proper level of alcohol and much more difficult to be preserved.
The “pañada” or apple collection is the first step in the long and laborious process in producing cider. This process takes place during the Autunm months and, like most of the tasts regarding the elaboration of our drink, is made collectively and so, family and friends are called together for the occasion.
First of all, the apple trees are shaken, and then, once the fruit is already
picked-up, is put into sacks and is taken to the cellar where they are piled up awating for the final destination: “la mayada” (the pressing).
The “llagar” (cellar) is usually situated in cool places since the elaboration of cider requires low temperatures, that is why the person in charge of the cellar tries to start the process close to winter, the period of time when the wheather is colder.
In general it should have enough capacity for the “duernu de mayar” (wooden recipient where they formerly used to press the apples), space to place the barrels and space to stock the bottles if necessary and, of course, enough room to handle the press from where we will get the must.
There used to be different ways of extraction. In some cases they used a beam press, made of wood, also called “squeeze”, which could have one or two worms, it was squeezed using a lever; in other cases, like the so-called weight-cellar, consisted of a beam press with a big stone; when the worm was actuated it lifted the stone what caused the beam to perform a bigger pressure on the apple pulp. It also attracks attention the “sobigaña cellar” or “scissors cellar” which requires a big building due to its dimensions.
The must is kept in the “tina” from where, then, is taken to barrels in order to leave it ferment until March or April, or even later depending on the barrel size, when the golden liquid reaches the right alcoholic strength and so start to cork.
It can also be drunk directly from the barrel using the “espichas” or small holes made on the front part of the barrel.
Most part of the cider production is destined to the cellar’s owners’ self comsumption, proceeding to bottle what they consider to be necessary for the family in the “corchada” (cork process) what also gives name to that particular day when this delicate process takes place.
The cider that was not corked, was sold in the “espichas” taking the name from the small holes they used to make in the barrels, which was the traditional way in those days. Both, the “espichas “ and the cork process used to be carried out when the moon was in the last quarter. In order to announce the “espicha”, they used to put a branch of laurel out side of the cellar but also by the nearest main road or public way.
A very typical way of carrying out the “espicha” was known as “a perrona la mexada”, the clients could drink until they had the need to wee-wee and they had to pay again to be able to get into the cellar again.
Another sort of “espicha” used to be celebrated when a bar’s owner wanted to find out how was a barrel’s cider that was to be bottled. They used to come with experts in order to make sure about the quality of the product they wanted to buy. They used to drink it directly from the barrel in a jar or a glass served with some food: boiled eggs, omelette, chorizo, ham, knuckle of pork, pies, cheese, etc. It still takes place nowadays.
It was also sold to “chigres” and “romerías” where the barrels used to be taken by carts until it started to be bottle in the XIX century. The bottles used to be taken among grass to avoid they could break. Cider boxes showed up later and they undewent serveral changes. In the begining they were for 24 bottles, later, they were reduced to 20 bottles and nowadays to 12.
Traditionally, cider used to be drunk in chestnut, oak or walnut recipients until clay started to be used. The most common names for these recipients were: “xarra, puchera, caciplu, cazador, tarreña or cacipla”. And finally crystal glass showed up.