Puttin’ the Squeeze On

Two blank facing pages from an old pamphlet. There is very old, yellowed tape on the binding which has been broken. The paper is water stained, torn and yellowing. The edges are rough and corners are dog-eared.

Without question, the best part about Fall is heading out into the country to enjoy all the changing colors and finding fresh apple cider. There’s something about cider (heated of course… and topped with mini marshmallows) that makes me smile. For fun, I thought I’d pass along some history of cider making in the U.S. I found on-line, thanks to Chris Lehault from Serious Eats.

According to Chris, America’s love affair with hard cider, and sweet cider, dates back to the first English settlers. Upon finding only inedible crabapples, the colonists requested apple seeds from England and began cultivating orchards and grafting wood to produce the proper apples for eating and cider. Since it was trickier to cultivate barley and other grains (for the production of beer), cider became the beverage of choice on the family dinner table – even the children drank Cinderkin, a weaker alcoholic beverage made from soaking apple pomace in water. By the turn of the eighteenth century, New England was producing over 300,000 gallons of cider a year.

As settlers moved west, they bought along their love for cider, with the help of John Chapman (better known as Johnny Appleseed). Chapman, actually a missionary, traveled west ahead of the settlers and grafted small, fenced in nurseries of cider apple trees in the Great Lakes Region and Ohio River Valley (many of the original trees are thought to still exist today). It was not uncommon then to find small cider orchards on homestead grounds. After spreading throughout the country, cider’s popularity waned at the turn of the century as eastern and German immigrants brought with them a preference for beer, and furthered diminished enjoyment by Prohibitionists who burned trees to the ground and the Volstead Act, which limited hard cider production.

Luckily today, cider can be found on the grocery store shelves, in farmers markets and at local roadside stands. The best is the pure kind – fresh squeezed apple juice cider, made by combining multiple apple types, and pressing out the juicy goodness.

Here’s my favorite recipe: Mix a whole bunch of apples, press out the juice, drink.

This weekend, get some cider, heat it up in the microwave, add in a little cinnamon, (and marshmallows) and enjoy the flavor of the season. And if you know of a good orchard where they still make cider the old fashioned way , shoot me an email at skowalski@khtheat.com and I’ll share with our readers.



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