Turning backyard crabapples & foraged fruit into cider: Q&A with ANXO Cidery
Foraged apples await the cider press. Image courtesy of ANXO.
Making cider out of everything from backyard crab apples to foraged fruit, ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar crafts some truly local ciders in Washington, DC. Featured as part of the original #RescueDish for using apples that might have otherwise been wasted, the restaurant and cidery has a number of sustainability tricks up its oak barrels. Co-owner Rachel Fitz answered questions from EatOrToss writer and RescueDish organizer Rachael Jackson.
So, people bring you apples from their DC yards and you turn them into cider? They do! There are apple trees all over DC and many of the trees don't produce fruit that people want to eat, so without foraging and making cider the fruit would otherwise go to waste.
Even crab apples? Aren’t those inedible? A lot of people don't realize that culinary apples like what you find in the grocery store don't make great cider because they lack acidity and tannins needed to balance out the sweetness of the fruit. Crab apples tend to be higher in both acidity and tannins so are ideal for cider making.
If I go apple picking and I can’t eat all the apples, can I bring them to you? Absolutely! If you let us know that you have an apple tree that's about ready for picking, we can even come help harvest the fruit.
Tell me about your foraging trips. One of our favorite yearly foraging trips is to nearby National Colonial Farm in Piscataway Park. There is an old orchard there that has five old Hewe's crab apple trees. We now make a cider called NCF (National Colonial Farm) made in part with the juice from the apples we foraged there. For every bottle of NCF sold, a dollar goes back to the orchard to help plant more trees and grow the orchard.
When you forage for apples, are you usually picking them up off the ground, picking those that weren't already harvested, or both?
I've heard about “natural yeast” enhancing the flavor of cider made from foraged apples. It sounds a little icky... is "natural yeast" OK to eat? Yeast naturally lives on the skins of apples. When you bite into an apple from the grocery store you're eating natural yeast. There's natural yeast around you all the time; it's completely safe and makes for delicious cider!
What do you do with the apple pulp left after making cider? When the apples are pressed, the remaining pulp gets given to farmers to use as feed for their animals whenever possible.
Enough about apples and cider. What’s your favorite trick for making sure other good food doesn’t get tossed? We try to be creative and find different formats that lend themselves well to using whatever leftovers there are in the kitchen. For example, our croquettas always have the same base but the flavor is constantly changing because we use whatever scraps or leftovers we have in the kitchen that day to make new batches. Because we have a standard way to make the croquettas, but the ability to sub out specific ingredients, we are able to make the most of leftover ingredients in the moment. Using the same ingredient in different ways for different plates on the menu is another way to limit loss. We might use the fennel bulb in one dish, but the fronds in another. This limits our waste and allows customers to get the full experience of the ingredient.
Is there an ingredient you love that you suspect home cooks often throw away? We use day-old bread to make croutons and breadcrumbs. This is not only easy and limits food waste, it actually makes better croutons and bread crumbs! Citrus peel is another common part of an ingredient that gets wasted too often. We use the peel of the fruit for cocktail garnishes and zest it for vinaigrettes, curing tuna, etc.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about how you keep things sustainable and low waste? We are very diligent about cleanliness and organization. When you are organized, you can see when you have too much of an ingredient that will go bad if you don't repurpose it so that you waste less. Also looking at an ingredient as a whole is really important. Very often people are used to eating one part of an ingredient, but that doesn't mean the other parts have to be wasted.
I hear ANXO is one of the most educational bars in the District. Educate me. We love helping guests discover new food and beverages that they may have not tried before. Too often specific foods or flavor profiles are put into a category that people think they either like or don't like. But when you encourage people to really taste for themselves, with the understanding that you're never wrong with what you taste since it's your own experience, people are more comfortable to really think about what they're tasting and engage in a conversation about it. Sharing and tasting and talking about what you're tasting helps you figure out what specifically you like or don't like, and often results in guests discovering new items that they love but might not have otherwise even tried.
ANXO has two locations in Washington, DC: ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar, 300 Florida Ave., NW (above, and above right), and ANXO Cidery and Tasting room at 711 Kennedy St. NW. You can also find ANXO cider for sale at bars, restaurants and grocery stores across the District. www.anxodc.com. Images courtesy of ANXO.
This conversation was conducted over email and has been edited.