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11 Ways Hard Cider Shaped American History

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Today is National Cider Day, so let’s celebrate the most authentically American drink, one that’s done everything from saving colonists’ lives to rescuing George Washington’s political career to swaying presidential elections.

1. Cider Apples Kept the Colonists Busy

When English colonists first arrived in North America, they enthusiastically embraced the wide range of wild fruits they found growing, from grapes to berries. Unlike back in England, however, edible apples were tough to find. The colonists quickly got to work on rectifying this situation, and as early as 1623 they were planting cider apples in New England from imported seeds. Apples flourished in the fertile soil and friendly climate, and soon apples were a key part of most colonial farms and menus.

2. Hard Cider Kept Early Americans Nourished and Healthy

These new orchards were so bountiful that most farmers ended up with a much larger crop of apples than they could actually eat. By fermenting these apples into hard cider, the colonists were able to create a tasty drink that would remain fresh and usable much longer than the raw fruits. Better yet, hard cider made a safe alternative to frequently suspect colonial drinking water supplies.

3. It Also Kept The Colonists Merry

These early settlers also enjoyed tossing back a well-earned drink or two, and for colonists, cider had several advantages over beer. The colonists had a hard time cultivating hops and barley, so anyone who wanted a mug of beer had to either import these raw ingredients from back home or have barrels of beer shipped across the Atlantic, a costly proposition. Meanwhile, apples had no such drawbacks, which cleared the way for hard cider to become the original American tipple.

4. Hard Cider Paid the Bills for Colonists

For colonists, hard cider was more than just a delicious drink and a safe, clean alternative to water. It was also a key component of the colonial economy since currency was often hard to come by in the colonies. There was plenty of hard cider to go around, though, so in the absence of money, hard cider became as good as cash. Colonists would pay their bills with barrels of hard cider and worked out barter arrangements centered on hard cider. Cider and applejack (hard cider that had been further fortified through freeze distillation) were supposedly even used to pay the construction crews that built some of the country’s first roads.

5. Hard Cider Kept Colonists’ Other Foods Safe

Although hard cider was terrific for preserving large apple harvests, it played a crucial role in colonists’ other dietary staples. Colonists discovered that by further fermenting hard cider, they could create apple cider vinegar, which became a crucial ingredient and colonial condiment. Most importantly, though, this vinegar created from hard cider allowed colonists to preserve vegetables through pickling, a godsend during long New England winters.

6. Hard Cider Was Served at the Battle of Concord

The Battle of Concord, one of the first showdowns in the Revolutionary War, was surely a harrowing engagement for both British troops and American revolutionaries. But that didn’t mean that either side had to skip its daily mug of hard cider. As the fighting fell into a lull, the sides dropped back into a standoff, and local “crazy man” Elias Brown saw a business opportunity. Brown strode through both sides’ lines selling hard cider.

7. Hard Cider Helped Launch George Washington’s Career

Compared to colonial elections, today’s political process is a somber, serious affair. Candidates often engaged in a practice called “swilling the planters with bumbo,” which basically entailed buying voters drinks to get them in a favorable frame of mind before they hit the polls. When a young George Washington ran for Virginia’s House of Burgesses in 1755, he didn’t shell out for drinks — and lost the election in a 271-to-40 landslide.

Undeterred, Washington ran again in 1758. And this time, the cider was flowing. Washington’s campaign served up 144 gallons of hard cider and other libations, and Washington cruised into office. Without hard cider, who knows whose face would be on the $1 bill?

8. Hard Cider Fueled John Adams

Washington’s vice president was an even more ardent hard cider enthusiast. Adams was strict about having an apple a day, and cider was his preferred way to get it. Before he settled in to work on running the country or helping gain independence, Adams kick-started each day by draining a tankard of hard cider — he once mused of this daily ritual, “It seems to do me good.” Adams became a cider devotee as a college student and later reminisced about his student days of throwing back cider: “I shall never forget, how refreshing and salubrious we found it, hard as it often was.”

9. Hard Cider Boosted Thomas Jefferson’s National Pride

Adams loved drinking cider, but his presidential successor took things to a different level. Thomas Jefferson was a proponent of cider and devoted a large portion of the South Orchard at Monticello to cultivating cider apples. For Jefferson, Americans’ superior apples were a point of pride for the New World. He called his Taliaferro cultivar “the best cyder apple existing” and dismissed European apples with “They have no apple to compare with our Newtown Pippin."

10. Benjamin Franklin Used Hard Cider in His One-Liners

While the other Founding Fathers used hard cider to get elected, stay healthy, or underscore what the new nation did well, Benjamin Franklin mostly enjoyed drinking cider and using it in his writings. Franklin wrote of seeing a Native American tribe hear a missionary tell the story of Adam and Eve, which prompted one member of the audience to remark, “It is indeed bad to eat apples. It is better to make them all into cider.”

Franklin was also a proponent of hard cider as a social drink. He memorably quipped in Poor Richard’s Almanack, “He that drinks his cider alone, let him also catch his horse alone.”

11. Hard Cider Got William Henry Harrison Elected

When William Henry Harrison ran for president as the Whig candidate in 1840, a Richmond newspaper editorial tried to dismiss the decorated general as ill-suited for office with the scathing remark "Give him a barrel of hard cider, and ... a pension of two thousand [dollars] a year ... and ... he will sit the remainder of his days in his log cabin."

Far from insulted, Harrison and his Whig supporters embraced the jab. They borrowed a page from George Washington’s playbook and started running on a “log cabin and hard cider” platform as a common man who understood voters better than his opponent, Martin Van Buren. Hard cider was the perfect symbol for a populist candidate like Harrison — it was something that Americans made better than anyone else in the world. Hard cider became a key ingredient in Harrison’s raucous campaign rallies, and Harrison sailed into office with 234 electoral votes to Van Buren’s 60. The lesson: Never underestimate hard cider’s power.

Happy National Cider Day! Did you know that Woodchuck has been hand crafting cider in Vermont since 1991? Well, you do now. Pick some up today and enjoy America’s Original Hard Cider. Click here to join our community on Facebook.

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11 Benefits of Buying Handcrafted Products
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Handcrafted products can offer higher quality and more attention to detail – but they can give buyers some surprising side benefits as well.

1. Handcrafted Products Are Green.

Work done by hand takes less energy than a mass production assembly line, which makes it more environmentally sustainable. This is particularly true if the commercial good is produced overseas and needs to be shipped a very long distance to reach the consumer.

2. Handcrafted Products Are Good for the Job Market.

Another reason you should feel good about spending your money on hand-crafted products? Doing so creates jobs. One study found that shifting just 10 percent of consumer spending in a particular area to locally owned businesses would create hundreds of new jobs and millions of dollars in local wages.

3. Handcrafted Products Are Worth More.

A number of experiments have shown that people value an object more highly when they are led to believe it contains an “air of authenticity,” for example, if they were told it was a work of art. This means that artisan products, be they jewelry or jam, are perceived to have more value in society.

4. Handcrafted Products Are Also Just Better.

It’s not just an amorphous air of authenticity that causes people to shell out more for handcrafted products. Handcrafted goods are often just better. A study of coffee found that 47 percent of respondents said it tastes better when prepared by hand compared to just 11 percent who are happy to settle for machine-produced drinks.

5. Handcrafted Products Make You Feel Good About Your Purchases.

And if you’re like most Americans, that’s something you prioritize. A 2012 survey found that 87 percent of American consumers felt that businesses should place at least as much weight on society's interests as they do on business interests. Supporting local artisans and their eco-conscious business practices certainly fits the bill.

6. Handcrafted Products Help Communities.

Studies have shown that locally owned independent businesses —many of which sell wares produced by hand— return a higher percentage of their revenue to their communities than chains. That means the people who make money off sales at independent businesses, owners and employees, are more likely to spend their salary at places in the same area where they work.

7. Handcrafted Products Can Meet Your Needs Better.

Often with handmade goods, you have the option of customizing your purchase. Because you’re often dealing directly with the artisans when you purchase handcrafted products, they might be open to tweaking certain aspects of the product specifically to fit your needs.

8. Handcrafted Products Offer a Fuller Experience.

A study researching cheeses in Vermont found that consumers prefer buying “artisan” cheese because they feel it provides a fuller “sensory experience.” This is a factor of both intrinsic properties, like better taste, and extrinsic properties, like the joy of finding something you really love. Even just the knowledge that a product was handcrafted contributed to the feeling of a better experience because there is a relatable, knowable back-story.

9. Handcrafted Products Are Easier to Buy and More Popular Than Ever.

The Internet is packed with a burgeoning industry of handmade marketplaces – more and more people are embracing handcrafted goods. Some handcrafted sites saw a 71 percent increase in sales in just one year from 2010 to 2011. Buying handmade goods online allows you access to the skills of artisans around the world.

10. Handcrafted Products Are Unique.

One of the most prevalent, although least quantifiable, reasons people report for choosing to purchase handcrafted goods is that they just like having something that didn’t come from a big company. The nature of handmade goods means that there are fewer of them, so whatever you’re wearing or eating or adding to your home is as unique as you are.

11. Handcrafted Products Support a Tradition of Skilled Work.

We’ve seen that supporting your local artisan is good for the community, but it’s also good for the art. As technology makes it possible to replace skilled workers with machines it’s important to keep hand-making goods a financially feasible career choice.

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11 Tricks for Telling Authentic Articles from Fakes
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When you open your wallet to make a purchase, you want to make sure you’re getting the genuine article rather than a knockoff. Here’s how you can ensure you’re getting the real deal instead of 11 commonly faked items.

1. Gold Jewelry

First, examine the item closely to see if there’s any discoloration or wear and tear. If it’s a fake, the gold-colored sheen will have become worn, especially near areas where heavy friction occurs (think clasps, hinges, etc.). Keep an eye out for markings, as well. Stamps reading “HGP,” “HEG,” or “GF” identify the jewelry as heavy gold plate, heavy gold electro-plate, or gold-filled, respectively.

Biting into the jewelry can also give you a clue about the material’s softness, but you may end up denting fine gold. Instead, use a magnet. Gold won’t react to it, but if the item is a gold-plated metal, it will fail the magnet test.

2. Leather Goods

If the label says “genuine leather” and you are still suspicious, there are tricks you can use to find out if it’s the real deal. You may have learned that scratching the material will give it away as authentic or fake, but some genuine leathers are treated to resist scratches and won’t pass this test.

Leather has pores, and if it’s a synthetic imitation, these will be spread out in an even pattern. Real leather, on the other hand, has scattered, naturally placed pores. Also, be sure to check the edges. Faux leather will have smooth, factory-formed cuts. More often than not, real hide will be noticeably rough around the edges. And finally, give it a good whiff—that genuine leather smell is unmistakable.

3. Handbags

Imitation handbags can be remarkably similar to their designer counterparts, so a keen eye is necessary if you want to spot a fake. If you have access to a genuine example, you can use it to compare material feel and the locations of logos and other identifiers. If you don’t have a real handbag to use as a master key, there are a few things that will give away fakes, even if they’re dead ringers.

Stitching should be clean with no loose threads or signs of sloppy craftsmanship, and threads should be of consistent color and thickness as well. Tags and other add-ons should feel heavy and substantive. If they’re hollow or cheap-feeling, it’s a good bet you’re dealing with a knock-off. And finally, there is a shining beacon of truth in the world of designer handbags: zippers. If the zipper sticks or is a struggle to pull, it probably means the bag is a dud.

4. Diamonds

If the stone isn’t mounted, place the flat end down on a piece of newspaper. If you can see through and read the text, it’s not a real diamond. Diamonds have a high refractive index, meaning it will bend any light trying to get through and end up looking cloudy. If you can make out any of the text, chances are you have a cubic zirconia. Fake diamonds are also heavier than their genuine counterparts, so heft is usually a bad sign. Finally, if you breathe on a fake diamond, it will probably fog up. Real diamonds will instantly dissipate the heat and their surfaces will remain unchanged.

5. Fabergé Eggs

Famed Russian jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé’s finely crafted eggs are world-renowned for their beauty and scarcity. Keep this in mind, because chances are the ornate egg you found in grandma’s attic is a “Fauxbergé.” But you should still check to see if you have a remarkable find.

Additionally, most of Fabergé’s eggs had identification numbers engraved on them. A slew of records were recently discovered in Russia that can help cross check these numbers to see if the piece is genuine. But before you do any of that, make sure the egg is light. Fabergé was a meticulous craftsman, and his pieces were never clunky or heavy.

6. Silver Flatware

Genuine silver, as opposed to stainless steel or silver-plated metal, will give away a series of clues to its authenticity. Rub the flatware with a soft white piece of cloth. If you’ve got real silver, the oxide that had formed on the flatware will leave a blackish mark, while fake alternatives will usually leave the cloth looking clean. Inspect for chips or other signs of wear and tear. Silver-plated pieces may have some of their true material exposed after heavy use. And finally, look for markings. Real silver flatware is often imprinted with its silver content (i.e. “.935”).

7. Autographed Memorabilia

First things first: cross check the autograph with a genuine example to make sure it looks right. People’s signatures can change over time, so make sure the example you’re using is from a similar time period as your specimen. If that checks out, take a close look to see if it looks like it was made by a pen or via a printer. If it was printed, the ink will be uniform with little variance. On a real autograph, you will be able to see overlap and contrast.

8. Swiss Watches

If the watch is engraved with “Made in Switzerland,” that’s a big red flag—you have a fake on your wrist. Genuine Swiss watches will say “Swiss” or “Swiss Made,” but never “Made in Switzerland.” The quality of the engraving should be immaculate as well. If you have a magnifying glass, give it a close look to make sure it’s smooth and clean. Faux Swiss watches will have haphazard spelling and kerning.

9. Designer Footwear

As with handbags, genuine designer footwear will have high build quality compared to counterfeits. This means tight stitching and material that passes the “feel test.” If it feels cheap to the touch, you may have been duped by a knock-off. With shoes, rub them on a piece of white cloth. Inferior dyes will rub off and leave a stain (careful though—some expensive shoes will also ruin your socks). Designer shoes usually come with dustbags, and the absence of these should raise suspicion.

10. Baseball Cards

Fake baseball cards are usually produced via scan-and-print, so if you can see creases, scratches, or other imperfections that aren’t actually there, that should be a dead giveaway. If the card in question is supposedly very old, give the coloring a close look. Archaic printing methods mean that the images on authentic old cards are comprised of lots of small dots. If the card’s image looks smooth, it means it was made with a modern printer.

11. Sunglasses

Real designer sunglasses will almost always have high-quality hinges. Open and fold the legs—if you have a nice pair of shades, this motion will be smooth and feel sturdy. If the legs wobble or open askew, it’s a sign of an imitation. Genuine designer sunglasses will have high build quality, so check for seams along the tops of the stems and above the lenses.

Now that you have all this knowledge about spotting the genuine article, you can apply it to choosing a Hard Cider. Pick up some Woodchuck Cider and you’ll be enjoying real, hand-crafted cider. Click here to join our community on Facebook.

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