11 Very Important Things to Know About Cider

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By Erika Janik

Forget the juice; we're talking about the hard stuff. Here are 11 facts everyone should know about good old-fashioned apple cider.

1. Back in the 14th century, it is believed that kids were baptized in cider since it was often more sanitary than water.

2. An apple beverage a day? President John Adams drank a tankard of cider every morning because he believed it promoted good health. And it must have—Adams lived to 90, making him our third longest living president, behind Ford & Reagan.

3. Cider was so important to early Americans that one in every ten farms in New England operated its own cider mill by the time of the American Revolution.

4. But why didn't the drink stay popular over the years? The Temperance movement killed the business. Fired up by speeches from ministers and politicians, many farmers destroyed their "demon orchards," sparing only the trees used for sweet juice. During the years when Prohibition was enacted, American cider production in the fell by 76%.

5. The best cider apples seem to have the best names: Hangdown, Chibble's Wilding, Kentish Fill-Basket, and Glory of the West.

6. If you want to make great cider, be sure to practice your wassailing. The English custom, used to appease the deities of the apple trees, was believed necessary to ensure healthy crops. Here's how to honor the spirits: Place a jug of cider or piece of cider-soaked toast on the biggest apple tree. Then sing a chant or song. Finish by banging on kettles and blowing horns to scare away any evil spirits lingering in your orchard. It's that easy.

7. Also, you'll need lots of apples. It takes about 36 pieces of fruit to make one gallon of the good stuff.

8. When Caesar and his invading soldiers stormed through England in 55 BCE, they found Celts sipping a brew made from crab apples. The troops were quick to pick up the habit and take it back to Rome.

9. Other fruits can be used to make cider-like drinks, too. Perry comes from fermented pear juice, cyser is cider fermented with honey, and plum jerkum—made from plums—supposedly has some strange intoxicating effects. According to legend, it leaves "the head clear, while paralyzing the legs."

10. Looking for the proper way to care for a dead genius' brain? For more than 40 years, Einstein's cranium was stored in a box labeled Costa Cider. Actually, it was stored in two mason jars in the Cider box, under pathologist Thomas Harvey's sink.

11. Of course, if this moderately alcoholic beverage doesn't do it for you, it's possible to make hard ciders even harder. Apple brandy and applejack are distilled ciders, and applejack, in particular, is really potent. It's nicknamed the "essence of lockjaw."

November 18, 2009 - 4:55am
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