Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Old-time Apple Cider: Strange Ingredients

We didn't make any cider this year. The apple trees were hit hard by frost, and the drought that has continued from summer into the fall months ruined any crop there might have been.

But at Rachel's Antiques in Ripley I happened on a 1919 text called Homemade Beverages, by Albert A. Hopkins. The variety of drinks offered to an industrious maker is astounding. A whole chapter is devoted to cider--and not just apple cider. There is orange cider, cherry cider, pineapple and quince cider, raisin cider, cheap cider (hey, that's what the author calls it!) and artificial cider.

The apple cider recipe had ingredients that raised my eyebrows--isinglass, (in cider?) calcium sulphite (to keep it sweet) and olive oil. And then bisulphite of lime to stop the fermentation when it's reached the proper point. And glucose to sweeten if desired. Sounds like a chemcial bath!

The "artificial cider" is really interesting: something called Catechu, alum, honey, water and yeast are suggested to make "a very pleasant drink."

(Catechu, according to the Wikipedia is "(also known as cutch, cashoo, or Japan earth) an extract of any of several species of Acacia—but especially Acacia catechu—produced by boiling the wood in water and evaporating the resulting brew.)

Then when fermentation of this artificial cider is complete, the author advised the addition of a solution of oil of bitter almond, oil of cloves, caramel, and alcohol (which can be replaced by "any good Bourbon whiskey"--ouch).

Now if this entire concoction doesn't sound deadly to you, it sure does to me. I wonder how on earth people got their hands on such ingredients? I doubt that today we would have access to most of them--and probably a good thing!

A quick search online revealed that this book was reprinted in 2001. Scary thought, although there are other recipes in it that sound pretty harmless.

A safer-sounding recipe called Apple Water Ice that actually might be very refreshing is offered in another tome from Rachel's called Household Discoveries and Mrs. Curtis' Cookbook, published in 1908.

Here's the recipe. Try it at your own risk:

6 large tart apples, 2 cupfuls sugar, 4 cupfuls water, 2 lemons. Put the apples, sugar, and water on to boil, added the grated yellow rind of one lemon. Cook until the apples are reduced to a pulp, take from the fire, drain carefully without squeezing. Add the juice of the lemons. When cold, freeze.

There are lots of other recipes for "ices" too and all of them sound like they might be tasty--or at least, safer than the cider recipe above!

She offers a Cider Ice too--combine 1 quart cider, 1 cupful orange juice, 1/2 cupful lemon juice. Dissolve 1 1/2 cupfuls sugar in the cider, add the juices, mix the ingredients and freeze. Sounds simple, and somewhat similar to my own favorite fall punch.

The Cider Punch I make is a recipe given to me by my friend Suzy McGinley. It's quick and easy and kids love it:

Combine cider, orange juice and ginger ale to your taste. Add apples and oranges sliced crosswise and cinnamon sticks to float in the punch bowl for garnish, and there it is. How easy can it be? And it sounds a lot safer than Mr. Hopkins' concoctions!

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