Perry is an alcoholic beverage made of fermented pear juice using a similar process as that for apple cider. Some commercial beverages called pear cider may be a blend of apple cider and pear juice for flavoring, but in Britain perry is limited to no more than 25% apple juice. Sparkling perry is sometimes known as champagne perry. Although perry can be made from juice of any pear variety, just as in apple cider, selected perry pear varieties often contain higher tannins and acids than dessert pear varieties and make a superior perry product. Perry has been common for centuries in Britain and western Europe, but is relatively new to the U.S.
History of Pears and Perry
Palladius, in the 4th century, wrote that the Romans preferred wine made from pears to that from apples. He also gave instructions on how to make perry In medieval times, France was known for producing the best pears, and many varieties were brought to England after the Norman Conquest in 1066. However, wild or hedge pears continued to be grown in rural areas, and these pears were often used for making perry. Gradually regional farmers identified pears that were best in their areas for perry making, and in the late 1800s, enthusiastic researchers identified and described specific varieties, most of which are still known and used today. The Herefordshire Pomona published from 1876-1885 includes a chapter on the establishment of cider and perry factories by the Rev. Charles Bulmer: his son, H.P. Bulmer, founded the famous English cider making firm in 1887. Development and selection of improved varieties has continued to the present day, conducted by both private and state sponsored research programs.
History of Pears
Perry pear research at WSU Mount Vernon NWREC
In 2005 a preliminary screening trial was initiated, with 15 perry pear cultivars planted on Quince C rootstock with an interstem graft, to keep trees small in size. Source of the test varieties was the perry pear collection of the National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, OR. These 15 cultivars were selected from 22 available clones, and include 5 of the 6 perry cultivars listed in the Pyrus Core Collection. Traits to be evaluated will include bloom density, date of first bloom, full bloom, last bloom, harvest juice analysis (brix, pH, titratable acid), and harvest date. Observations will include disease susceptibility, tree habit, and vigor.
PI 541123 Barland2 bittersharp (high acid, high tannin)
PI 541124 Barnet sweet (low acid, low tannin); late bloom
PI 541151 Blakeney Red2
PI 541156 Butt bittersharp (medium acid, high tannin)
PI 483365 Gelbmostler astringent; scab resistant
PI 541195 Gin2 medium sharp (medium acid, medium tannin)
PI 541205 Hendre Huffcap sweet (low acid, low tannin)
PI 231806 Normannischen Ciderbirne somewhat dry and can be sweet but with some sprightliness; scab resistant
PI 506378 Romania Perry Pear small, yellow, used for brandy
PI 541261 Schweizer Wasserbirne2 flesh white, not juicy, potato-like in texture; scab resistant
PI 541271 Taynton Squash medium sharp (medium acid, medium tannin)
PI 483367 Theilersbirne very old Swiss variety
PI 541273 Thorn2 medium sharp (medium acid)
PI 541486 Winnals Longdon medium sharp (medium acid, medium tannin)
PI 541287 Yellow Huffcap medium sharp (high acid, medium tannin)
1Traits are from NGCR-Corvallis web site and include information from germplasm release notices, published reports, or observations made at NCGR-Corvallis.
2Pyrus Core Collection
Trees in the screening trial are not yet in full production. However, some varieties produced sufficient fruit for pressing and juice analysis in 2008.
Table 2. Juice analysis of perry pears grown at WSU Mount Vernon NWREC in 2008.
Sources for further information
Grafton, G. and P. Gunningham. 1990-2005. The New Real Cider and Perry Page. A very useful website full of detailed information on both perry and cider
Perry pear varieties
Perry Making Guide
Roach, F. A. 1985. Cultivated Fruits of Britain, Their Origin and History. Blackwell Ltd., Oxford.
Luckwill, L.C. and A. Pollard, eds. 1963. Perry Pears. University of Bristol for the National Fruit and Cider Institute. Covers all aspects of perry making from selecting the varieties to making the finished product. Recommended to anyone wishing to produce good perries.
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