Friday, 30 November 2012

Cider, Health Beverage

How could I not reproduce an article with a title like that? I'm sure noy everyone today would agree, but the author has some compelling arguments.

One I used myself quite recently. "It's only apple juice, after all, Andrew." Cider is sort of apple juice. All the goodness couldn't have been lost in the making of it.

Sometimes wish that those who write about eider would drink a pood deal more of it, and then they might write with more knowledge, and certainly with more discretion. It is remarkable what an amount of ignorance prevails with regard to the products of a tree quite as old as the establishment Glastonbury Abbey, if believe in old traditions. Joseph of Arimathea, are told, when came to what is known as Glastonbury, leaned on his staff, which, his weight, went down in the soft, rich, yielding soil, and there took root, and in due time became the holy thorn. Whilst loaning on his staff, Joseph drew from his wallet eastern fruit and proceeded eat it. In doing so, he scattered the pips, and from these sprang up those apple trees that furnish the blood-red cider, no other county England producing the like. There is no doubt that the holy thorn grew in Glastonbury, and so do the apple trees. We know that good cider has been made, and is still being made, in Somerset, and I have seen many a good old labourer march off with his two-gallon bottle the morning and bring it back and set it down empty beside the cider house door in the evening; and be ready take his pail on lis head to milking o'clock next morning. Why he could do this was because it was pure cider, and not a concoction that he had drunk. Now, a town dweller gets knocked over because he has drunk five pints of cider. He is given twenty-one days in which to reflect, and at the same time cider gets bad name. If there is is one thing that I detest, it is to see drunken person, and, happily, we see fewer them today. We see hardly any in country districts and cider is still freely drunk there. I trust it will, for many year to come. I am no braggart, but I think that I have sampled cider made in most of, or from most of, the cidermaking countries of the globe, and I believe that my old friend, Mr John Ettle, of Weston-super-Mare, will bear out my statement that, once having tasted cider that was made in Germany, be it in time war or peace, never want to make its acquaintance again, whether at home or in Holland. I think that I have sampled most of the show ciders that have been exhibited in England during the past 15 years, and I have had to taste and sample and place in order merit as many as 184 bottles and casks day. If cider were so terribly intoxicating, what should I have been like at the finish ? The fact is, cider does no harm long as it in pure. Cider is not a teetotal beverage, though containing much less alcohol than so-called non-intoxicating beverages. Here open challenge. Let anyone obtain 20 bottles of ciders not more nor less than six weeks old; also 20 bottles of brewed stone-ginger beer of the same age from 20 different makers, and send them to the Bristol University for analysis. I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that the stone-ginger would show the greater quantity of alcohol, either by weight or volume. The regulations at the Bath and West of England, the Royal Agricultural Society of England, and the Brewers' Exhibition in London, require that cider shall shown pure, and the chemist either precedes or follows the judge. Now, in all the long years these competitions have been held, a first prize has never been awarded to cider showing 6 per cent, of alcohol. At the Royal champion honours have been to a cider containing under 2 per cent, of alcohol. It will generally be found that there have been more ciders shown containing 3 to 4 per cent, alcohol than any other figures. Thanks to modern investigations, the contents of cider are fairly well-known, particularly the solids, and when these and the amount of alcohol are out of recognised proportion, well, the judge begins to think of either added sugar or added spirit, or both.

"Chambers' Encyclopaedia" states that cider contains from 4 to 10 per cent absolute alcohol. I wish its able editor would only send me a few grafts of the apple that has a sufficiency of solids in the form of sugars, to convert into 10 per cent. of absolute alcohol in the cider, even if it was fermented to comply with the regulations of the dry class at the Bath and West. Few realise that cider is, or should be, the purest beverage on earth. The juices are drawn from the soil, filtered by passing the trunk of the tree and through the branches, refined and perfected by sunshine, the greatest purifier of all. The apple is then crushed, the liquids squeezed out from the coarser parts, skin, core, & c . The juice is then put a clean barrel. The yeasts that are on the skins of the apples are then set to break up the fruit sugars, and fermentation takes place. This goes on until sufficiency of alcohol has been developed to act as a preservative. As the alcohol becomes more pronounced, the yeasts become weaker, until they are killed off the very product they have developed. The resultant liquor is all that cider should be, needs to be. If bright-looking cider is required the filter may be used. This, of course, takes from, rather than adds. If water be used to dilute the beverage, all kinds of fakes are used to restore the body — sugar candy, burnt sugar, caramel, boiled parsnips, beet roots, even beef, gingerbread, and anatto, just, of course, for appearance sake. Then the cider so weakened that anti-ferments, or preservatives, are added. The Devonshire practice of matchng or sulphuring leaves its distinctive trace on the tongue. Then there is salicylic acid, and others more harmful, as, I have cause to remember when I was not quite so well experienced as to cause and effect as now. The cider-makmg industry is a most important one to west England farmers particularly, and this being so, I have endeavoured show that whilst cider cannot mask as a non-intoxicant, yet, on the other hand, with ordinary table consumption, it can hardly hardly be styled an intoxicant. Of course. to sit and empty couple of bottles at a sitting would be different from taking half a gallon into the hayfield. The latter might be more than excusable, even necessary. Apart from being a mere beverage. Cider has decided medicinal properties of great value.
Western Daily Press - Thursday 31 December 1914, page 3.

Drinking two gallons of cider during the day, but still able to get up before dawn to milk. They don't make farm labourers like they used to. Two gallons. Even if it were just 3 or 4% ABV, that's still a fair amount of booze to get through in a day. 

That's not such an appetising list of adulterants. Boiled parsnips?  I prefer mine roasted. Talking of which, I did some really nice ones on Sunday. Caramelised, but not quite burnt. Yummy. Wouldn't want them in my cider, though.

Did you notice the dig at the germans there? Saying how crap German cider was. Though, to give him his die, the author does seem to know a thing or two about cider.


The Beer Nut said...

There's nothing I look forward to more at the end of a long week than going to the pub and hoisting the Gayflag.

Gary Gillman said...

That's a very interesting article, kind of modern in its consumer/judging savvy and "international" perspective. Good find there.

He romanticizes the drink somewhat, and as you say Ron, anyone getting through 2 gal of stuff in a day is drinking a lot of alcohol by any standard, this is a toper in my view, it is just that at the time clearly many people were able to do this, at least for a time, due to the particular nature of country occupations then. An analogy can be made to the coach driver capacity for beer one read of earlier.

Another noteworthy point is that clearly he is writing before pasteurization came in for the drink. The connoisseur's taste might have been for a semi-sweet cider caught just at the right balance point, and his injunction of a maximum of 6 weeks age - in a time when cider could be sold, and consumed, on this basis - testifies to an ideal palate sought by many, at least in his opinion. Although he does refer to certain districts where a "dry class" of beverage was liked, showing that hard cider had devotees in certain countrees again shall we say.

This lightly alcoholic, sweetish cider was probably more an ideal than a reality in pre-pasteurization days. It was probably much like the case with real ale - half the time it didn't come right or quite right, but when it was good, it was very very good.

Fortunately, science dispensed finally with the horrid-sounding salicylic acid, and like nostrums, to arrest fermentation at the chosen point. So that those who didn't want 8% (if not 10) fermented-out scrumpies and zum zyders could have recourse to pasteurized commercial ciders that preserved forever (in practical terms) the ideal balance of alcohol and sugar taste. Still, something surely was lost with the pasteurized article, just as occurred with beer.

And indeed this is the modern cider of today, it is more or less sweet with a bit of tartness and taste from the pips and a stable, predictable taste. (Watch out though, an artisan-style cider I recently bought from a big U.K. maker showed a big hit of brett - these guys know how to deliver a traditional taste all right, maybe too much!).

As to German ciders. I tasted one in Frankfurt airport a few years ago - cider is a specialty of the Frankfurt connurbation. The barman had to take a minute to find a bottle, he said it is rarely ordered. I thought it was middling and without the special taste of good English drink, but that was just one sample and probably not the best available.

I had one from Galicia Spain once that was on the dry side and not bad at all.

We in Ontario, and also Quebec Province, make some pretty good ones today, although they tend to be clean and still too sweet for my taste.

American ciders from the northeast or increasingly from out in Washington State or that general area can be excellent, some close to their English ancestors.

French ones tend to be of the sweetish, low alcohol kind, although they make some good bubbly ones in Brittany and Normandy. Picardy too as I recall; these are the "beres" and such and likely are true survivals of the kind of drink that went into "les champs" with the field workers.

The best though, IMHO, are still English. A good dry West Country cider if made in an artisan way and brettless (for my taste) is still matchless. English apples get the best taste, just as English hops do.