AGRICULTURE FORUM: Cider week set for April 6-12 in Grand Rapids

Rothwell

The newly formed Michigan Cider Association and Michigan State University Extension are pleased to announce one of Michigan’s first cider weeks to be held in Grand Rapids from April 6-12. 

This weeklong event includes a series of educational workshops, cider tastings, cider pairings and cider dinners that feature cider producers, cideries, and apple growers from around the state. All workshops and cider-related activities are open to the public. Many of the cider and winery operations from northwest Michigan will attend.

As the Michigan cider industry has been continuing to grow at an exciting and rapid pace, the time was right to establish an organization that supports education, research and promotion of this emerging industry. In December, the MCA was formed by a core group of Michigan cider makers through a state-recognized 501(c)6 program.  Though the MCA is a new organization, its intention is to provide short- and long-term significance and value to all members through the promotion and support of Michigan cider.

The MCA is hosting three sessions slated to take place at the Grand Rapids DownTown Market during the Grand Rapids Cider Week: home cider making, cider and food pairing, and an introduction to Spanish food and cider. 

The home cider-making course will be held on April 8 from 7 to 9 p.m. Participants will learn to make small batches of cider for individual consumption. Participants will have the opportunity to explore different methods of cider making, the equipment needed to start producing hard cider and a list of resources to get them started. 

The second and third workshops will highlight cider’s versatility to be consumed with many types of foods. A cider and food pairing will take place on April 9. From 7 to 9 p.m., participants will join Michigan cider makers and DownTown Market purveyors for an evening of cider and food. The MCA will pair Michigan ciders with a selection of meats, cheeses and desserts.

On April 10, the MCA will offer a glimpse into Asturias, a beautiful region of Spain that is world-renowned for its ciders. The evening will include a traditional espiche — a delicious and hearty spread that is typically served with cider, a Spanish cooking demonstration, a chance to talk shop with Michigan cidermakers about their Spanish experiences and instruction on how to ‘throw’ Spanish cider. The MCA is pleased to bring in Chef Pablo Balbona, of Gigon, Asturias, Spain. Chef Balbona is a famous chef in his hometown. He and his family own a highly regarded patisserie, Balbona Gastronomia, in Gijon. He also cooks at Aventura, the 2014 OpenTable Diners’ Choice Award-winning restaurant in Ann Arbor. Chef Balbona will cook Tortilla de Patata (traditional Spanish potato omelet), empanada de bonito (traditional pastry stuffed with tomato, peppers, and bonito) and a series of tapas made with cider.

Also on April 10, the MCA will join with the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition at an educational session on cider judging. This event will offer the opportunity for participants to learn more about cider styles and flavors. GLINTCAP is looking for judges to help judge this year’s cider entries, which has grown to be the biggest cider competition in the world outside of the Bath and West Show in England. Participants can sign up to volunteer by checking out these links that give a history of GLINTCAP and provide stewarding/judging opportunities for the 2015 competition: http://greatlakescider.com/competition and http://greatlakescider.com/competition/volunteer.

To register for any of the MCA workshops and events or to learn more about the MCA, visit miciders.com (mca30.wildapricot.org). The Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center, MSU Extension and the MCA hope to see many of northern Michigan’s cider enthusiasts in Grand Rapids for its inaugural cider week.

Lastly, there is another cider event closer to home. An educational workshop titled “Cider: From Apple to Bottle, an Overview of this Emerging Industry’ will be held on March 25 at Crystal Mountain Resort. This a half-day educational meeting will focus on topics related to hard cider beginning in the orchard.  

Neil MacDonald will attend. He is the orchardist responsible for managing Thatcher’s Cider orchard in England. MacDonald has been refining orchard production to grow high-quality hard cider apple varieties focusing on minimizing cost and labor.

The educational session cost is $20 and the dinner is also $20. Checks can be made payable to the Benzie Manistee Horticultural Society.  Call the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center at 231-946-1510 to reserve a spot.

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