When Two Brits Adopt Norman Cider and Toast the Templars with Mulled Calvados

 

Adam Bland, co-owner and cidermaker for Blands Cider, making a cheese for the cider press.

Adam Bland, co-owner and cidermaker for Blands Cider, making a cheese for the cider press.

Anne and Adam Bland, of Blands Cider, moved to Normandy over 20 years ago to create their dream cider farm, Ferme des Noyers. Just so happened they bought their farm in the land of Calvados, with a history of Templar Knights.

Written by Tess Jewell-Larsen
Photographs provided by Blands Cider

Templar knights, the Christendom soldiers that fought for the Holy Land in the Middle Ages, are often held as mystic icons of days long gone. There is much about the disappearance of the Order that has continued to hold many historians and writers intrigued. But one thing that can be certain is that the Templar knights, at least those from the area around Normandy, France, knew the taste of cider and maybe even the special apple brandy, Calvados.

And as a toast to the Templars, this month British expats, Anne and Alan Bland of Blands Cider in Normandy, France are, instead of ‘wassailing,’ mulling their green-spiced walnut Calvados, mixed with their ‘cidre brute’. Their farm was once a farm, or a ‘Seigneurie,’ given to the Templar Knights in the 13 century by a widowed noble lady; and they thought it would be fun to start the new year by remembering the past.

The Blands bought their farm, Ferme des Noyers, in Normandy over 20 years ago.

The Blands bought their farm, Ferme des Noyers, in Normandy over 20 years ago. The farm was once owned by Templar Knights.

“[The Templars], might have used green walnuts for flavoring as our farm name is ‘The Walnuts’ in English and we were shown an ancient club made from the wood of a long-gone walnut tree when we acquired the farm in 1991.”

Blands Cider is based out of Lisores, Basse-Normandie, France. The cider is made on the Bland’s farm, Ferme des Noyers (Les Noyers Farm Cidery or The Walnuts Farm Cidery). Anne and Adam Bland bought the farm and moved from Glocestershire, England to Normandy over twenty years ago.

“The Normans are very much like the rural inhabitants of Gloucestershire, although French-speaking of course,” Anne says. “[They] are some of the most courteous and warm-hearted people you could meet anywhere. They are favorably disposed to the British and see us as good settlers!”

The farm is located on the south-facing slopes in the Pays d’Auge region of Normandy, known for its cider and Calvados. The farm includes a 1000-year-old manor farmhouse and several other buildings on 40 acres of cider apple orchards and pasture.

“In Gloucesershire, [England,] Adam had worked very hard with his father, Vernon, making farmhouse cider, then on a grander commercial scale,” Anne says. They had wanted their own cider farm for quite awhile and when they finally decided to buy one, they found it was cheaper to do so in France.

Adam with his knowledge of English cidermaking learned the Norman cider production method and adopted its practices. He won a competition in the neighboring ‘City of Calvados,’ Viemoutiers with his Calvados.

Cider in Normandy is naturally sparkling, sold in corked and wired champagne bottles. The cider apples are sorted and the cider is ‘keved’ just after fermentation, Anne explains. There is a controlled fermentation that takes place over several months.

Anne and Adam Bland, British expats, share the duties of running the farm and cider business they have in Normandy, France.

Anne and Adam Bland, British expats, share the duties of running the farm and cider business they have in Normandy, France.

“Then in the spring we bottle the cider, and a small, secondary fermentation takes place in the champagne bottle so that the final product is sparkling, but controlled,” Anne says. The Blands do not add yeasts or sugars to the cider, but instead depend on the quality of the fruit and the stability of slow fermentation.

“We concentrated on farm tourism for the first few years here, while renovating the extensive property,” Anne says. They were then able to replant the cider orchards with Norman cider apple trees.

Ferme des Noyers offers a B&B room as well as a small campsite for tourists, and make evening meals on request that are served in the farmhouse’s dining room. The Blands run the farm and tourism business together, their six children have left home. Although their eldest son and daughter-in-law own a little restaurant on the Calvados coast and also sell the Blands Cider products.

“Adam and I do fairs in southern England and in Paris with our cider,” Anne says. “We sell it from our farm as well as by post. We also supply the canteen of the prestigious Haras du Pin with our cidre bouché, an outlet a connection of our youngest son found for us.”

The couple also makes sweet dry cider, kir, spiced green walnut liqueur, cherry liqueur, cider vinegars and jams, all from the produce of Les Noyers Farm.