We do not drink hard cider so much in the United States these days. Mores the pity. It is delicious stuff–and it provides a direct tie to the kitchens and taverns of our ancestors.
When I was a child in Ohio, we looked forward to the fall harvest of apples and the fresh cider that was available. Parents had to sample the stuff poured out of the farmer’s glass jugs before passing it on to the children, because you can’t tell by looking whether it is that innocent Hallowe’en brew of harmless apple cider, or whether it has been allowed to ferment into a true liquor.
I had not had “real” cider for many years until we traveled to Normandy, France three years ago. There apple cider — the hard kind–is the most popular drink. In fact, don’t worry whether you’re getting soft or hard cider when you order–you’re definitely getting the hard stuff.
I don’t recall my father ever trying his hand at making cider–although he liked to experiment with making all kinds of things–I remember the cottage cheese experiment, for example. So I was delighted to find an explanation of exactly how our ancestors made that popular drink, and learn a new word–“scrump.”
Settlers in the new world had that kind of optimism that leads people to plant seeds and wait for them to grow into trees. In Ohio, it is said, every cabin had apple trees growing by the front door (many attributed to Johnny Appleseed). And of course many farmers had whole orchards of apple trees by the 19th century.
Since the Howe family tavern keepers were also farmers, it stands to reason that they would grow apples and use them to make the most popular drink in the new world–cider– derived from a less appetizing sounding drink called “scrumpy.”
The following excerpt is from the webpage of Blanchard’s a Colonial era inn in Avon, Massachusetts that no longer serves meals. You can arrange for private visits to the Inn and the home/museum next door at their website.
The author of this piece says that cider is experiencing a bit of a comeback, and this American Hard Cider website lists boutique cider makers in America. And come to think of it, weren’t all our apple-growing ancestors really “craft brewers” before they knew it was chic?
In case you would like to cook with your cider instead of drinking it, here is a modern recipe. Like so many of my excursions in the kitchen, this made me think of ancestors. In this case because it uses two foods they were familiar with–salmon and cider).