A federal agent is standing in the middle of an apple orchard, giving orders for the trees to be burned to the ground.
Is this a scene from a dystopian science fiction movie? No. It’s from the strange world of Prohibition-era America, when the federal government restricted the production of hard cider, and, actually, non-alcoholic cider too… just to play it safe. Some orchards were razed during this time, and some farmers simply gave up growing cider apples.
Destroying apples of any kind is tragic, but this was especially so, since many of these trees traced their lineage to John Chapman, a.k.a. Johnny Appleseed.
As he moved across the frontier, Chapman had planted apples from seed, which made the trees hardy but their fruit sour. “The seed of an apple is basically a botanic roulette wheel,” writes Natasha Geiling in Smithsonian Magazine. If you plant Fuji apple seeds, apple trees will grow, but they won’t be Fuji. More likely, they’ll be “spitters”: apples so bitter you want to spit them out immediately!
This was the kind of apple Johnny Appleseed was planting as he helped pioneers start their orchards. Did they mind? Nope. Because, for one thing, they had to plant orchards in order to keep their land; for another, they loved drinking hard cider. And, as Geiling points out, hard cider was safer to drink than water, in which all kinds of dangerous bacteria could lurk.
So the next time you hold a Fuji, Honeycrisp, Gala or other sweet apple in your hand, you can be glad a farmer took the time to delicately graft the apples. And the next time you enjoy a glass or mug of cider, you’re tapping into a long American tradition. We say sweet cider definitely counts!
Apple Cider Recipe Roundup
Weaver’s Orchard brings us our sweet apple cider, and it tastes just like biting into a fresh, juicy apple (a sweet one, that is!). Enjoy it chilled and refreshing, mulled and comforting, or try these three recipes that make use of Weaver’s Orchard’s sweet apple cider.
Also, did you know that if you shop for your Christmas tree at Wolff’s, you get a free cup of our mulled apple cider? Yum!
This one is easy! Just three ingredients! Although the recipe provides a simple single-serving recipe, a large batch could easily be heated on the stovetop or in the microwave.
An added bonus in this article: Ed Weaver reveals which apples he likes to use for Weaver’s cider-making!
Cider… in a fruit salad? It makes sense if you are making fruit salad with a whole package of cranberries! The cider adds natural sweetness. (Cranberries, without added sugar, might also be called “spitters.”)
Apple Cider Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cinnamon Buttercream
Courtesy of Weaver’s Orchard
This cupcake recipe is ambitious, with its delicate buttercream topping and cider reduction drizzle, but the cupcakes are delicious and impressive, well worth the effort!
Want to Learn More about Growing Apples?
If the discussion of grafting vs. planting from seed intrigued you, check out this article on one way Weaver’s Orchard recently grafted new apple varieties.