A legend in the cider world, Eden Ciders’ Eleanor Leger — along with her husband Albert — has been bringing the world of fermented apples together in countless different ways. Whether through epic collaborations, local support or unique tasting experiences, the team at Eden has shown that their heart and soul belong to the community.
Eleanor Leger with her specialty ciders. (Photo by @jarvi_productions)
Food Karma: Tell us more about yourself and Eden Ciders!
Eleanor Leger: Hi! I’m Eleanor Leger and I’m the owner and founder of Eden Specialty Ciders in Newport, Vermont. I was working in finance and my husband was a chemistry teacher (he still is) in 2007, when we started producing ice ciders in the basement of our farmhouse in West Charleston. One thing led to another, and now we make a wide range of different kinds of ciders, but all from locally and sustainably grown apples.
FK: Can you tell us more about the apple varieties in use at Eden?
EL: So I think we’re just really lucky that we started in an area with enterprising growers like Steve Wood and Terry Maloney who started growing interesting fruits and apples for ciders. When we just got started, we went down to Scott Farm and they had 120 varieties, which aided our initial testing and playing around with apples to figure out our blend. Our ciders are delicious, and most of it is from the fruit itself. We’re just trying not to screw up the wonderful flavors that were already there.
FK: Where are these apples coming from?
EL: We have a network of 10 small orchards that we source from. And this is the most fun time of the year, because we’re just in the middle of getting fruits from all of our partners and see what we have to work with this year, and it’s never totally predictable because there are just so many variables to apple-growing. But that’s part of the fun as well!
It’s really our passion to keep seventy-year-old or one hundred-year-old trees that would otherwise be cut down for development, because the small orchards here have to compete with the giants in upstate New York.
FK: Are there a lot of disadvantages for the apple growers in Vermont in comparison to those in upstate New York?
EL: It’s really about the topography. You can’t really have large-scale orchards in Vermont because we have mountains that get in the way. We’re just small-scale and remote, which is why I think Vermont has such a reputation for specialty food products, because we have to do something special considering our small scale.
FK: What makes Eden Ciders so special?
EL: We use a wine rather than beer point of view to make ciders, which means we press everything at peak flavor, and then we age it before it gets packaged as opposed to pressing groceries stores’ varieties out of cold storage and fermenting it fast. You just have a lot more opportunities for flavor development this way. And there is a wave of people making ciders this way and putting so much care into picking out the right variety for their flavor profile.
FK: Can you share with us some of your favorite offerings?
EL: Of course! We’re super excited because we’re about to launch a new line of bottled ciders with brand new labels from the Feel Good Studio, which is part of Good Beer Hunting. These are dry, fruity and bright, and they’re not ice ciders. They’ll be formally launching in the first quarter of 2023, but we’re doing some sneak peek stuff.
FK: Do you guys do a lot of collaborations with other cideries at Eden?
EL: Yeah! So we have done a few over the years. The first one was with Angry Orchard and the cider was called Motion Number 1. One of my favorites was the one I did with Ellen Cavalli from Sonoma Country’s Tilted Shed Ciderworks. We were both Ellie and she was like “Maybe we should start a band” but I’m like “No we should do a cider.” That was 2017, and it just went so perfectly that we agreed to never do this again, because it will never be as good.
The couple holding their Deep Cut ciders (Photo by Jimmy Carbone)
FK: Last but not least, would you like to tell us a little more about your virtual tasting experiences?
EL: So we started doing that when the pandemic hit because we had a fairly robust e-commerce business, and it has been super fun! And a lot of companies now still have remote workers in multiple locations even if they go to the same office. They want to do things to bring people together and cider tasting is one of those. We also did birthday parties and other celebrations. It’s great to talk to people about ciders, especially during the pandemic when I couldn’t do that in-person anymore.