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The History of Apple Cider
Historians largely agree that apple trees existed along the Nile River
Delta as early as 1300 BC, but it is unclear whether cider was ever
produced from the fruit.
When the Romans arrived in England in 55 BC, they were reported
to have found the local Kentish villagers drinking a delicious
cider-like beverage made from apples. According to ancient records,
the Romans and their leader, Julius Caesar, embraced the pleasant
pursuit with enthusiasm. How long the locals had been making this
apple drink prior to the arrival of the Romans is anybody's guess.
By the beginning of the ninth century, cider drinking was well
established in Europe and a reference made by Charlemagne clearly
confirms its popularity.
After the Norman Conquest of 1066, cider consumption became
widespread in England and orchards were established specifically to
produce cider apples. During medieval times, cider making was an
important industry. Monasteries sold vast quantities of their strong,
spiced cider to the public. Farm laborers received a cider allowance
as part of their wages, and the quantity increased during haymaking.
English cider making probably peaked around the mid seventeenth
century, when almost every farm had its own cider orchard and
press. The industry later went into decline, due to major agricultural
changes. Cider regained its popularity during the twentieth century,
but demand was largely for the mass-produced variety. Only in
recent years has traditional cider making finally triumphed.
American History of Apple Cider
American history tells a different tale. Early English settlers
introduced cider to America by bringing with them seeds for
cultivating cider apples. During the colonial period, grains did not
thrive well and were costly to import. On the other hand, apple
orchards were plentiful, making apples cheap and easily obtainable.
As a result, hard cider quickly became one of America's most popular
beverages. Consumption of cider increased steadily during the
eighteenth century, due in part to the efforts of the legendary Johnny
Appleseed, who planted many apple trees in the Midwest.
However, a series of events led to cider's fall in popularity. The
introduction of German beer with its faster fermentation process
quickly made beer popular because German immigrants were able to
set up large breweries for producing great quantities of beer. The
production of apple cider was still limited to small farms. The
religiously based Temperance movement then caused many
church-going farmers to give up cider. Some even went as far as to
chop down their apple trees. Then Prohibition became the law and
pretty much destroyed the market for apple cider.
Today, with the growing popularity of microbreweries, the tide has
turned. Traditional cider making is experiencing a major resurgence
in both America and Europe.
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