Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Another tale (though true) from England has to do with cider, an interesting drink.
Beautiful day as we sat over looking the Irish Sea in the garden of the Wooten Pub. Had a little snack and watched the birds and the sea. Not one to leave well enough alone I recalled that our daughter April had suggested that since we were going to be in the Apple Cider area of Britain I should try some. So off I go to the bar to see what they have and the first thing I see is a spigot with the words SCRUMPY JACK, FINE SMOOTH CIDER! So I order a half and its back out to the sun and distant sea.
I check out the translucent color of this cider and take a nice long gulp. Mistake! However not one to jump to conclusions I edge the glass toward Janet and solicit her opinion . She took one small sip and gave me a look that could kill and we both said in unison PIGS! Actually we said more but lets just say that it taste like it had already been through a pig. Actually its the after taste that first gets you and anyone who ever been near pigs would understand. More about this later. Actually just a word more... Just who drinks this stuff! I would love to have the money and time to make a study of this as, long as I don’t have to drink any!
Thus our first encounter with cider and the beginning of love/ hate relationship with this branch of the apple juice family. Working from the tenant that one must know one’s enemy we did a little research.
The cider apple was introduced to Britain in Celtic time, however it is not certain that they were used at that time to make cider. It is known that William the Conqueror brought over a generous supply of cider when he landed in England in 1066. So perhaps cider was not being made in England at that time. However by the 1300s cider was being made throughout southern England. An example of how well it caught on was demonstrated during the English Civil War when the son of Charles I, later to be Charles II, had to flee England rather hastily, but managed to take 30 hogsheads of cider (1600 gallons) with him. Before lemons were discovered to keep scurvy at bay, cider was taken on long sea voyages. Captain James Cook took cider with him on his voyage to Tahiti. In fact cider became so popular that in the early 1900s a third of a farm workers wages was paid in cider. All that being said, we still can not see how anybody can drink the stuff! Perhaps a visit to a cider farm would be of some help.
The Perry Cider Mill is located in the village of Dawlish Wake in Somerset. Here you will find all the apparatus needed to make cider, the washer, pulper, cider presses, and of course many aged wooden barrels for storage. Perry’s is set up as a turn of the century cider mill, and is well done. There is also a tasting room where you can taste the fruit of their labors. We were soon to learn that there are many types of cider, Vintage Dry, Vintage Sweet, Sweet, Medium Sweet, Medium Dry, and dry. Throwing caution to the wind we tried them all. The decision was unanimous they tasted like Vintage Dry Pig, Vintage Sweet pig and plain old pig!
This was not getting anywhere so maybe we needed to go to the source of the matter, the simple apple. Not so simple it seems, there are more types of cider apples than one can imagine, and with such wonderful names. There are Dabinetts, Kingston Black, Cider Lady fingers, Sweet Coppin, Strawberry Norman, Foxwelp, and many many more, and let’s not leave out good old Pig Snout! In the past cider apples were not picked, one simply waited until they fell off the tree, or for the more industrious the tree could be rammed by a tractor. Even in this overripe state they were left in a pile to mature even more. Regardless of the the name or manner of harvesting, we found that the one characteristic that they had in common was that they were more or less inedible, what we would charitably call crab apples