Food and Drink Producers in Norway: Hardangerfjord
“Imagine you're sitting on the jetty down by the ice-blue Hardangerfjord with a glass of pearly cider in your hand. Around you, the majestic mountains rise high above the fjord. You see the glacier Folgefonna, a multitude of waterfalls flowing down from snow-covered peaks, and all around you, there are apple trees in full bloom. That is the beauty of Hardangerfjord.” - Joar, Aga Sideri.
Since the 19th century, Hardanger has been an important European destination and it’s no wonder why! Hardanger offers many scenic gems; fjords, mountains, waterfalls, glaciers, and orchards and is perfect whether you want to be active or just kick back and relax. Some of the most beautiful hikes in Norway are in and around Hardanger including Trolltunga (the Trolls Tongue), Husedalen, Vøringsfossen, H.M. Queen Sonja's panorama tour, and the Hardangervidda National Park.
In the 13th century, apple cultivation was introduced by monks from England. Today 40 percent of all Norwegian fruit is grown in Hardanger, including apples, morels, plums, and pears.
We had a chat with a local cider brewer and craftsman to hear more about Hardangerfjord apples and their cider production.
Hi Joar, it’s a pleasure to meet you, please introduce yourself and Aga Sideri to our readers?
My name is Joar and I run Aga Sideri. My uncle was a milk and fruit producer here and I and my girlfriend was inspired after a trip to Douro in Portugal tasting delicious port wine. In 2018, we took over my uncle's farm to try and replicate what Port means to Portugal, but with apples and cider from Hardanger. If you ask me, Hardanger has the best apples in the world. In an old hen house on the farm that had been empty for 10 years, I rigged my first cider production unit.
You got off to a whirlwind start, didn’t you?
Yes, Aga Sideri has had a bit of a head start. In the first year, I attended a cider festival in Øystese where I won the amateur class with higher scores than the pro class. The following year, I won the pro class. Then I participated in this huge Norwegian food and drink competition, called Det Norske Måltid (The Norwegian Meal), and actually, two of the three ciders in the final were from Aga. I’m proud to say my cider called Bøddel (Executioner) won 1st place and got the title "The Cider of the Year 2019".
What's the best thing about Norwegian apples?
The wonderful acidity and aroma are very special in Norwegian apples. Hardanger is so far North with both hot and cold weather. The soil is of very high quality with generations of trees and apples falling and giving back treasured nutrients and minerals.
Which apple varieties are used in your cider?
I use Aroma, Discovery, Summered and Gravenstein but I have also planted old varieties such as Torstein, James Greeve, Filippa and Bremley.
How do you make cider?
Apples are harvested by hand from September to October. We wash the apples before they are ground and pressed. We have all the tools we need on the farm, so this is a really short journey from tree to processing. After all the juice is squeezed out of the apples, the juice is pumped into stainless steel tanks, and a little sugar is added until they are ready and fermented. It takes between 1-4 months. Finally, they are bottled and ready to be consumed. This year we are producing 50,000 liters!
Is there anything else visitors should know about the Norwegian apples and cider?
Hardanger has become famous in the world of cider, and next year we will hopefully be hosting an international cider festival. A lot of tourists who come here are surprised that it is possible to grow fruit here because the ground where the apple trees grow is so steep and rocky. It has raged for generations, so there are small bumps and pits everywhere. They are also very surprised by how good the cider is. Many people think French cider is the best, but that's before they've tasted cider from Aga and Hardanger!
To experience the taste and beauty of the Hardangerfjord, be sure to check out our Hardangerfjord in a Nutshell™ tour where you can add a visit to a cider farm in Ulvik to your tour! You will learn more about the history of cider production in Norway, and how the famous Hardanger Cider is made and you will of course get several tastes of the precious drops too!