Three Counties Perry

Article from Slow Food.

Perry is a little-known traditional English drink made from the fermented juice of perry pears, small, bitter fruits with such a high level of astringent tannins that they are almost impossible to eat raw.

Perry has been made in Southern England for centuries, and the name "perry" once referred to all wild pear trees as well as to the beverage. The trees bear viable fruit only after a few decades of growth and the best can be over a century old. The ancient perry orchard is a classic part of the British landscape and its tall, majestic trees provide the basis for an important ecosystem, considered a unique habitat by British naturalists. There are over 100 different varieties of perry pears, but many varieties only have a few remaining specimens and are in danger of disappearing completely. Perry, like cider, was once made on the farm for the farmer's family and workers and is not suited to large-scale production, as the production of each batch varies greatly with the mixture of pear varieties used.

The method for producing perry is the same as that of producing hard cider. The fruit is harvested, milled to a pulp, and pressed to extract the juice, which is then fermented: some perry undergoes a second inbottle fermentation to make a sparkling beverage. Almost all British perry is produced in the Three-Counties area of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire, and is consumed almost exclusively in the region of production. It is a classic accompaniment to traditional British cheeses such as Single and Double Gloucester, Cheshire, and Lancashire. Real perry contains no additives. It can be dry, medium or sweet in taste, and still or sparkling. The quality can vary from "rough" like scrumpy hard cider to an almost wine-like drink. The flavour of farm made perries is variable: they may be fermented to dryness but will retain a distinct pear aroma.


Under present market conditions the remaining perry producers are struggling: few of them make a living from producing only perry, and many of them produce it in their spare time simply because of their love of their product and its heritage. There is little or no marketing of perry and the tiny local market continues to diminish year after year. There is now increased awareness amongst the producers of the need for high quality standards if perry is to be promoted among attentive consumers. The Three Counties Perry Presidium is working to raise awareness of high-quality perry made from the bitter perry pears, not from fleshy cooking or eating pears. The Presidium is also working to establish guidelines for a select group of producers to stabilize quality, while retaining the natural variety of a product made from various perry pear varieties. The Presidium producers are working to define the full list of the pear varieties traditionally used for perry production.
In 2006, presidium producers drafted a production protocol to define rules for growing and harvesting pears and producing perry.

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