Where Wind-Chill Gives You Brain Freezes, It Also Gives You Nordic Cider

 

Denmark has just recently begun making cider in 2000. There are only seven ciderhouses in the whole country at the moment.

Denmark started making craft cider in 2000. There are only seven ciderhouses in the whole country at the moment.

A cold—but sunny—day in Denmark’s up-and-coming cider culture and a great insight into the innovation that comes with new cider cultures.

Written and Photographed by Tess Jewell-Larsen

Two jackets (one leather, one wool), two sweaters (one wool, one hoodie), tights under my jeans and two pairs of socks in my boots. You might think that was too much, but I was perfectly content knowing I had on the layers of an onion. And I was decently warm on the freezing 27 of March as I made my way from Odense to Fredericia and then to the countryside near Randers, in northern Denmark.

I knew before going to Denmark that winter was still in full swing—although while I was there, notes of spring were in the air—but I wasn’t really quite prepared for what that really meant. It was cold. Really cold. And I found it fitting that the ciderhouse I was going to see is called, Cold Hand Winery.

To get to Cold Hand Winery I met with Jacob Damgaard, Food Entrepreneur and Communicator and up-and-coming Danish cidermaker, at the train station in the small city of Fredericia, Denmark.

THE BEGINNING OF DANISH CIDER

Cold Hand Winery: Randers, Denmark

Cold Hand Winery is located in the countryside near Randers, Denmark.

“Denmark has had [craft] cider starting in 2000,” said Damgaard as he drove us to Randers, which was about a two-hour drive. The first ciderhouses focused on making cider with traditional French apples in a traditional French style.

“The people who make French style cider are having a hard time selling,” said Damgaard. The product is just as or more expensive than the cider imported from France and people just aren’t accustomed to drinking it. When most Danish people hear of cider they think of commercial, sickly-sweet cider. (Sound familiar?)

However, those who market their cider as a full Nordic cider (or apple wine as a few call it), like Cold Hand Winery, Damgaard said, are doing great. They sell everything they make – even the odd experimental ciders.

The Nordic cider goes along splendidly with the new Nordic Food trend, a movement that focuses on food made from only Danish produce. Many of the Nordic Food specialty restaurants are very accepting of Nordic cider as a pairing with their edible creations.

Not that there are a lot of cidermakers to supply the Nordic Food craze.

“There are only seven [ciderhouses] in Denmark,” Damgaard said. Damgaard is working on starting up his own ciderhouse, making cider purely from Danish apples.

COLD HAND WINERY

Jens Skovgaard Pedersen

Jens Skovgaard Pedersen got the idea of ice cider when he found liquid dripping from frozen apple juice containers. He thought he was the first person to ever think of fermenting that concentrated sugar juice. (The cider Skovgaard is holding is the Conifer Cider.)

Cold Hand Winery lies in the ever flat—albeit slight rolling hills—landscape of the northern region of Jutland, near the small city of Randers. The cold land had the look of a long winter with short brown grass in the fields and mounds of snow every so often along the roadside.

As we drove up to Cold Hand Winery, with the apple orchards behind the house and old converted barn, Jens Skovgaard Pedersen stood there waiting for us. The jolly-faced man waved us in and gave us hearty handshakes as we got out of the car.

“How are you liking the cold?” Skovgaard Pedersen asked as he shook my hand. It was a bit cold for me I admitted. He laughed and ushered us in to the slightly warmer old barn that they converted into a “winery.”

“I can triple the price if I call it sparkling apple wine,” Skovgaard Pedersen said. The public’s aversion to the commercial, chemical cider has had a huge marketing effect on Cold Hand Winery. Restaurants don’t want cider, Skovgaard Pederson said; they can sell “wine” at a higher price.

Skovgaard Pedersen makes what he calls “Danish” cider or “Nordic” ice cider. The ice cider is made with Danish apples and Danish acidity (i.e. not a sweet cider).

“I thought I invented [ice cider]. Turns out the Canadians did,” he said laughing. “Actually I think it was a couple of Americans who lived in Canada…”

Skovgaard Pedersen first got the idea to make ice cider when he put a lot of apple juice in the freezer: too much juice in too small of a container. The frozen juice expanded and the container broke.

“I saw a trickle of liquid dripping out […] I knew it was pure sugar and I got a great idea to make it into alcohol,” he reminisced.

Skovgaard Pederson stated making ice cider 10 years ago, spending several years testing different recipes before launching Cold Hand Winery in 2006. He started making traditional champagne cider, but today makes what he calls “modern Danish cider.”

To make the ice cider Cold Hand Winery uses the natural freezing nature of northern Denmark to freeze the apple juice to get the concentrated sugar juice with which he makes the cider. Using this natural method can sometimes be difficult, because if the weather doesn’t cooperate and doesn’t stay below freezing long enough, he can’t get the amount of concentrated sugar juice out of the frozen juice he needs. About 5,000 liters (1,321 gallons) of the concentrated sugars can be extracted from about 30,000 liters (7,925 gallons) of juice.

Patrick Daugaard

Patrick Daugaard is a chef turned cidermaker–one that Skovgaard Pederson just couldn’t do without.

Skovgaard Pederson and his co-cidermaker and right-hand-man Patrick Daugaard don’t just make the modern Danish ice cider but also two different types of Pommeau (Feminam and Masculine), several different fruit wines, a totally dry apple wine, and his recent experiment: Conifer-flavored cider.

“It tastes like a Christmas tree!” Skovgaard Pederson said. “Where did the Christmas tree go? It’s in the cider!”

He is “searching…always searching” for the perfect cider.

After tasting several of Cold Hand Winery ciders and the two ice cider pommeaus—the conifer cider did sort of taste like a liquid Christmas tree with a hint of citrus—Damgaard and I made our leave.

On the ride to Aarhus, the second-largest city in Denmark, where I would stay that night, Damgaard discussed his hopes for the future of Danish cider.

I want Danish cider to be known in the households, he said. I want people to drink cider alongside beer and not as a cheap commercial drink, but as a good craft alcohol.

I can’t wait to watch Danish cider grow and to see where it goes.