Daily entries from the 17th century London diary
Pedro on Sun 1 Jan 2006, 9:00 pm
"syder…for tonight we merry be."
“What follows is the true tale of this mythic beverage, loved by millions of Englishmen, which explains why, for over a decade, I have dreamed about introducing it to Americans…dreams have power.”
I'm a little surprised that Pepys and friends are drinking cider in the winter, because I think of it as mainly a summertime drink. I have friends who make their own and for one thing it takes several months to ferment, just as does wine.
Apparently in North America the word is used for apple-juice non-alcoholic drinks, but in Britain it is ALWAYS alcoholic. In fact, it's normally significantly stronger than beer. Do not think about giving it to your children if you're in a British pub.
Cider as a thirst quencher , as teen-ager, used to drink cider when stookin', threshin', 'oin' and other gynastique exercises when down on the olde farm before the days of Combines. Never suffered a hangover, just worked a little faster.That not be 'scrumpy' that be another story. see Devon & scrumpy for the press of juice from apples.
Cider Making and a poem “upon Cider” by the Cider poet John Philips (died 1708)…”Of wine delectable, that far surmounts Gallic, or Latin grapes,”
A little more on Philips…
Cider in North America is indeed more often than not (by quantity) a non-alcoholic beverage, distinct from apple-juice by having mixed in some fruit solids.
There is, however, also what is called "hard" (= alcoholic) cider.
Both tend to be associated with autumn and winter.
In the UK cider is always "hard" (else it is apple juice - clear or cloudy)It was originally apple wine with a high alcholic content, but was made weaker to avoid paying high excise duties. Now supermarket cider is between 2% and 5% alcholol, but West Country "Scrumpy" is much stronger. It was said the West Country pubs wouldn't sell "foreigners" (anyone without a west country accent) more than two pints.
In the English county of Somerset, where I grew up, some farmers fermented rough cider (scrumpy) in huge oak barrels. They sold it very cheaply, and you could 'taste' the cider from several barrels before buying. The cider apples came from their own orchards. To 'feed' the cider portions of raw meat were sometimes thrown in the barrels (rumour has it rats were sometimes used) - these disappeared without trace in a few days. Unlike beer, you can work hard after drinking cider - perhaps that's why it was very much a farmworker's drink for centuries in the West Country of England. It can also make you do some very silly things.....please don't ask.....I'm still trying to forget.
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