The Never-ending Pursuit of Flavor, with Ryan Burk of Angry Orchard

In this episode of the Essential Cooking Podcast, Ryan Burk of Angry Orchard talks about the apple’s journey from Kazakhstan to North America, and the myriad varieties that make well-balanced hard cider.

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Fermenting apples to make cider has been going on for centuries, but apples weren’t always as widely distributed as they are today.

Ryan Burk is the head cider maker at Angry Orchard. He visited the source of cider as we know it, the apple forests in the Tian Shan Mountains, on the border of Kazakhstan and China, which span millions of acres.

As humanity moved through Asia and goods were traded along the Silk Road, apples started to move westward.

Eventually, European settlers brought apples with them to North America, where cider provided a safe source of drinking water.

As people found varieties that they liked, they began cloning those preferable genes by way of grafting.

In recent years, the popularity of hard cider has grown significantly, and the key to that success is experimentation with apple varieties to provide new and exciting flavor profiles.

While the bulk of apple varieties used are of European origin, they vary widely. Some varieties are sweet, some are acidic, and some are effervescent, but the combinations are endless.

As head cider maker at the largest cider producer in the U.S., Burk spends a lot of time tasting and judging other people’s ciders. One of the things he is always looking for is balance, and letting the fruit shine without too many other flavors getting in the way.

In this episode:

  • The apple’s journey from Kazakhstan to North America
  • Pairing foods with cider
  • Cider as the American colonial beverage
  • Focusing on balance when making and tasting cider in competitions
  • The menagerie of apple varieties and how to make great cider with those
  • The importance of blending a handful of varieties for a well-balanced cider

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  • David Leins
    David Leins is a Podcast Coordinator and Producer at WDET. He also oversees the StoryMakers program. When he isn't making radio and podcasts, David is probably on a hike somewhere marveling at the trees.