Fresh apple cider, that tangy autumn treat, costs more this year.
The price has jumped — by a dollar or more a gallon — in response to an unusually small apple crop.
The record warm temperatures in March followed by some hard freezes in April took their toll on most apple orchards in the Capital Region.
“We have half a crop [of apples] and it affected juice prices,” said Molly Golden, marketing director for the New York Apple Association, a nonprofit agricultural trade organization.
“It’s going to affect everything, fresh apples, cider, and processing apples,” she said.
Golden said the apple crop is meager in most parts of the state.
Josh Knight of Knight Orchards on Goode Street in Burnt Hills said his orchards were hurt significantly by the unusual weather pattern this spring.
“We have to buy apples for cider” from orchards in the Champlain Valley, he said.
Knight and Golden both said orchards in much of the Champlain Valley escaped the damaging frosts of April.
Despite the price increase, people are still buying cider, orchard owners say.
Last year, Knight Orchards pressed 17,000 gallons of cider, averaging about 1,200 gallons per week. Knight expects the orchard will produce about the same amount this year.
“We may close a little earlier [this year] depending on the apple supply,” he said.
Because of the increase in the cost of apples he buys, he has increased the cost of a gallon of his cider from $5 to $6 this year.
“The price of cider apples, statewide, has tripled,” Knight said. He said that last year the cost of cider apples per pound was between 6 and 8 cents; this year it’s about 20 cents.
“I’m still selling it. The thing to do is have cider and doughnuts to celebrate the season,” said Isabel Prescott, owner of Riverview Orchards on Riverview Road in Rexford.
Prescott said she doesn’t have a cider press. She buys her cider from Knight Orchards or Bowman Orchards in Rexford.
Riverview charges $4.25 for a half gallon of cider and $6.95 for a full gallon. Prescott said the demand for cider is about the same this year as last year.
Nate Darrow, an owner of Saratoga Apple on Route 29 in Schuylerville, said he presses cider all year long.
“There are a lot of different qualities of cider,” Darrow said.
He said the quality of cider depends on the varieties of apples that go into it, whether those apples are tree-picked or “drops,” and whether a preservative is used.
“We use tree-picked apples, make it 12 months a year and we do not put a preservative in it,” Darrow said.
He said Saratoga Apple uses an ultraviolet light system to purify cider rather than pasteurization.
“Our cider has always been at a premium price,” Darrow said, adding that the $4 per half-gallon is the same price he charged in 2011.
Saratoga Apple was also victimized by this April’s hard frosts. Darrow hasn’t opened his orchards to self-picking yet but hopes to start his “you-pick” season off the trees the weekend of Sept. 29.
Saratoga Apple currently has an orchard picking system that allows people to pick apples from large bins of apples rather than off the trees.