Autumn means Mother Nature blesses us with her heavenly harvest. Amongst the abundance of the fruits of her forest – the humble apple – is often taken for granted. Perhaps it’s because they are always there, ready to be picked? There never seems to be a shortage of apples in this country.

Of course, October will mean lashings of crumbles, strudels and pies being baked in our kitchens, but of course, it’s the apple’s ability to transform into the lovely libation that is cider, that gives us that warm, tingly autumnal feeling.

With so many craft ales, beers, gins and vodkas available to buy these days, it’s surprising that cider still gets a look in. But it does more than that. In Hertfordshire it’s holdings its own against many other autumnal beverages.

The popularity of cider – made of course from the fermented juice of our dear friend the apple – is because it’s been around for so long- (thousands of years to be exact) but it has kept evolving to cater for changing tastes and trends.

During the Middle Ages it was safer to drink cider than water because water was so dirty and riddled in bacteria. There are even reports that babies were once even baptised in cider. Now that could have made for a very sticky situation at the font.

Great British Life: Many filled crates after the apple harvestMany filled crates after the apple harvest

Cider became increasingly popular in the UK because not only were our orchards and climate well suited to growing apples but endless wars with France made it more and more difficult to get hold of wine. So, people just embraced cider instead. Just as Roman soldiers were once partly paid their wages in salt, labourers in England in the 13th century were often paid in cider- the most skilled could expect up to eight pints a day for their work.

Cider today is still a British favourite. Whether it’s still, naturally sparking, bottle-fermented, carbonated, dry, medium, sweet or poured over ice, it’s a big seller. We are the biggest consumers of cider in the world per capita and around 56 per cent of apples grown in the UK are used to make cider.

There are several methods and processes that can be used to create cider but according to experts the perfect pint of cider would be made out of 100 per cent freshly pressed apple juice fermented slowly for months and then aged, often in oak barrels, for months (if not years).

And the drink can give you a health boost too. Research shows it can help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and help with hydration since it’s mainly made up of water. Apples also have vitamin C and antioxidants, which can reduce inflammation and protect against the development of some cancers.

If you want to go picking your own apples for a spot of home-made cider pressing, Hertfordshire has plenty of varieties which are ripe throughout October. The Brownless Russet, for example, a fruity crisp apple, was introduced by William Brownlees of Hemel Hempstead in the late 1800s. Or there’s the Staward’s Seedling, believed to have been brought into Ware Park Gardens by the head gardener, Richard Staward in 1940.

Fancy enjoying a pint of the good stuff? Why not pop into the Robin Hood Pub in St Albans which was recently named South Herts CAMRA Cider and Perry Pub of the Year. Options to try here include Rosie’s Pig Cloudy Cider and Stan’s distinctively orange Cheddar Valley.

Great British Life: Apple Cottage Cider in kit form (c) Apple Cottage Cider Apple Cottage Cider in kit form (c) Apple Cottage Cider

Hertfordshire is blessed with cider creators – and cheers to that!

OFFLEY CIDER

Offley Hoo, Hitchin

offleycider.com

Run by a group of friends who are passionate about ‘real cider’ made the traditional way, this bar, cidery and workshop is based on a farm complex alongside other artisan business outlets. The company produces a variety of ciders to cater for every taste- from dry to sweet and even cider vinegar. It’s good to know team member Robert Crayton, a scientist by trade, has brought his pharmaceutical and chemical skills to the business to create the perfect scrumpy. Applying his knowledge to the cider making process, from the humble apple tree to the bottle, can only make the finished product even better. Cider lovers can make an appointment to tour the cidery and enjoy a tour of the site and learn all about what goes into perfecting cider varieties.

APPLE COTTAGE CIDER

Radwell Mill, Radwell

applecottagecider.co.uk

A family run business for nearly two decades Apple Cottage cider prides itself on bringing customers a top-quality product with no artificial additives or sweeteners. Cider is at the heart of everything here and the business has been bringing award winning products to the table year after year. Each of its ciders are well rounded with age and made with 100 per cent British apples which are lovingly blended by the farm’s chief cider maker. If you want to have your own apples made into a cider, they can do it for you here. They will identify your apples, press them, pump them and bottle them into your own special creation. You can also hire equipment from the company if you fancy having a go yourself. The cidery’s catchily named creations include ‘Gandhi’s Flip Flip,’ described as exceptionally smooth, dry taste, it’s award-winning ‘King Leonidas’, a medium sweet cider which has ‘delightful after tones which dance on your tongue like a parade of flavour’ and ‘Pyder’, hailed as a tangy and refreshing apple and pear blend.

FOUR ACRES ESTATE

Little Hadham, Hertfordshire

fouracresestate.co.uk

The family run vineyard and orchard, which has won a plethora of awards, is set on a picturesque hillside above the Ash Valley. It’s known for its terrific sparkling cider which has oaky barbecue overtones as a result of being aged in whisky barrels. Last year because of the very hot summer the vineyard harvested its apples in November. They apples were smaller but that meant the sugar content was higher because of the endless sunshine, which made for one mighty fine cider! The vineyard is in great hands. After a lifetime spent in the travel industry proprietor Platon Loizou decided he wanted to go back to his Cypriot roots and fulfil his dream of making wine. Since 2010 he had been out in all weathers tending his vines. This has led to the launch of his sparkling cider made through the superior ‘methode champenoise’ and its ‘Three Cubs Cider’ – a 6.5 per cent very dry variety.