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Citizen Cider's Olmsted Project - Crowdsourced Terroir

October 7, 2015

Cities grow and change, and we often forget to look to the past as we plan for the future. The Vermont cider revival has given us a chance to celebrate the past and the present. Apple trees once lined the busy streets of Burlington and grew in urban backyards. With this thought in mind, Historian Hugo Martínez Cazón, approached Burlington-based cidery, Citizen Cider, about a project to uncover the history of the city’s wild apples. Now, for the second year, Citizen is asking Burlington residents to bring forth their wild apples to press, ferment and age into hyper-local cider for a limited release dubbed the Olmsted Project.

Named for Frederick Law Olmsted, the brilliant landscape architect behind hundreds of landmarks like Central Park in New York City and, locally, Shelburne Farms, the project is helping to uncover the story of the historic orchards. In 1852, Olmsted wrote, “…I have eaten a better apple from an orchard at Burlington, Vermont than was ever grown in the south of England.” Wild apples still quietly and secretly grow throughout the city, and last year’s foragers and property owners brought Citizen exciting varieties, both foreign and familiar, to add to the collaboration.  Each contributor is asked to fill out a form, and this information is used to help identify the apple and put together Hugo Martínez Cazón’s Burlington story.

The crowd-sourced cider isn’t just made with Burlington apples; the yeast is local too. Citizen co-founder and lead fermenter Bryan Holmes grew a native, wild yeast from the city's wild apples to use for his fermentation. “Wild yeasts have different characteristics – both good and bad,” Holmes explained, "you never know what you'll get. The primary fermentation had a taste I’ve never seen, like carrots and cantaloupe.” While those flavors didn’t stick around with aging, the result was a complex, weird cider that Holmes says he “didn’t have the words to describe.” 

The project will culminate with a talk from Martínez Cazón and, of course, a cider tasting when the cider is fully aged (as early as February). Keeping in the spirit of the project, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Vermont Food Bank Gleaning Project.

Have you spotted an apple tree in Burlington? Join the Olmsted Project!

Any local apples will do, as long as they are:

  • Firm, not really soft, with no apparent rot spots
  • Brought in bins, totes, boxes or buckets- not in plastic bags please
  • Golf ball size or larger: crab apples make great cider but if too small they’re hard to press.
  • Ideally picked from the trees- drops are OK as long as they are in good shape.
  • Labeled with your name, location of trees, and variety (if known)

Apples can be brought to the Citizen Cider tasting room at 316 Pine Street during regular hours of operation from now till November 15th. Find more information here.

Thank you to Flavor Plate for donating their time and effort to the design and co-development of our website.