Growing fruit and making cider are closely linked here in Western Norway, and grandfather Andreas Eitungjerde planted the orchard in 1922. When his grandson Åge took over the farm in the mid-1990s, he looked for new ways to utilise the fruit. He resigned his position as a college lecturer to establish Balholm and the Cider House. Balholm – then called Gulleple – became a pioneering product; the first all-natural fruit juice on the Norwegian market.
For 20 years, Balholm has worked with apples, fruit cultivation, processing of apple juice and berry juice in many different varieties. Today, Balholm has six employees and produces about 300,000 litres of drink a year. In 1999, Åge imported sprigs of 13 different cider apple varieties from Normandy and Somerset, and has grafted about 1000 trees that are now in full bloom. This is the first time such cider apples have been trialled in the Norwegian climate. ‘Cidor’, ‘Belle Fille de la Manche’, ‘Major’, ‘Ellis Bitter’ and ‘Yarlington Mill’ are some of these varieties. The bitter flavour from these apples gives the same experience as tannin in wine and hops in beer; it gives a stronger flavour that lasts longer. These varieties also contribute to a much more complex flavour in apple brandy. In addition, we use the whole fruit with peel, so that all the flavours are included in the distillate.
Balholm’s goal is for organic natural must from Sogn to be available in grocery stores throughout the country. For the time being, the supply of raw materials is too small for this. We are therefore working to increase organic fruit production by establishing contract farming.
Together with Økoringen Vest, Sogn Jord- og Hagebruksskule and Planteforsk avdeling Njøs, Balholm has for several years been involved in raising the professional level of organic fruit production, which has had a clear ripple effect on the rest of the country. The alliance between research, advisory services, growers and processing gave concrete results after a few years. Sogn is today the fruit region in the country with the most organically authorised fruit producers. In Aurland and Balestrand, more than 10% of the agricultural area has been converted to organic.
Today, Balholm has six employees and produces about 300 000 litres of drinks a year.